LET'S hear it for the men in black, eh? Or even occasionally the women. As clarion calls go, it isn't one which is heard too often. And regardless of the outcome of Saturday's Old Firm match it isn't something Craig Thomson is likely to hear too frequently on next week's drive time radio phone-ins.

But it was something which did occur to me as I took in an Under-12s youth initiative – or 'Pro Youth' – match recently and noticed that the referee was mysteriously absent. In fact, in my experience, for whatever reason, having no match official for one of these matches is a rather regular occurrence, certainly when it comes to some youth academies.

Whether it is to do with referees at whatever end of the age scale failing to see the attraction, a lack of eligible officials in that location, or noon kick offs preventing whistlers getting a match fee from both a morning game and an afternoon one, this is a rather alarming state of affairs when you consider these are apparently the top-flight Scottish footballers of the future. Yet if you turned up at the same 3G park later that weekend most adult amateur or welfare leagues seem to have little difficulty in finding them.

Referees are not infallible, but it occurs to me that these guys have as important a job as any in terms of developing awareness of the laws of the game in wide-eyed 10- and 11-year-olds. With both sets of coaches understandably more preoccupied in their own teams patterns of play and performances, or perhaps unwilling to get too involved with line calls, it is instructive to see how quickly the thing descends into arguments over each throw-in, developing behaviours in young children which are hardly desirable.

And it isn't just football either. I also had the privilege of a front-row seat last weekend at an Under-12s club tennis encounter in Glasgow, a sport which certainly doesn't have the same kind of administrative back-up which football can speak of. Aside from the fact the tie started in bright sunlight and ended with rain and leaves strewn across the artificial clay court surface, I was surprised to find out that apparently it is de rigueur for these six-rubber matches to take place without a coach in attendance, let alone a nominated umpire.

When it comes down to a ball on match point bouncing within millimetres of the baseline, it all places quite a strain on primary school age children to make their own line calls. It takes quite a display of mind over matter to shelve an injustice if you feel you have been deliberately dealt one. And while so many tennis matches are played this way, that a 20-point schedule of rules governing every possible scenario exists, you can hardly ask parents to have learned it off by heart and start intervening and issuing code violation warnings.

It is in this context that I read with interest this week that the forthcoming ATP Next Gen tennis tournament in Milan will proceed with only the HawkEye monitoring system instead of line judges, a decision has been described as a possible "landmark moment" for the sport.

It made me think about how far this all could go. Could the inevitable next step be the phasing out of referees and umpires from elite sport altogether? How the course of sporting history would have been different had John McEnroe only had an IBM laptop to rail against.

Or "You cannot be serious," as SuperMac would probably have said, as he rebooted said device with a swift boot of his Adidas Stan Smiths.

Like it or not, video technology is coming. It eliminates human error and potentially corruption. You certainly don't get things like the blatant erroneous penalty call from Ghanaian official Joseph Lamptey during an international match between South Africa and Senegal recently which ended with a lifetime ban for match fixing and a replay of the match. Likewise, Brazilian domestic football will be the next to bring in Video Assistant Referees (VAR) after an entire officiating team missed a goal by the former Everton and Manchester City striker Jo which he scored by bundling the ball into the net with his forearm to give league leaders Corinthians a 2-0 win over Vasco da Gama.

But, like HawkEye in tennis, or the video review system and mic'ed up referees in rugby, it should be used to facilitiate the referees, not replace them. So let's hear it for the refs and umpires, then. In fact, let's hear from them too, a real-time microphone recording which allows us to access their exact thought processes, how they interact with their additional officials and the stars of their sport. Because it isn't just Ibrox on Saturday where the players themselves can't be trusted to adhere to the rules.