BRENDAN Rodgers has sensationally called for English referees to be introduced to Scottish football.

The Celtic manager insists there are too few top officials working in the Premiership and that their part-time status puts them at disadvantage in such an unforgiving and professional environment. Officials in England, working in the Premier League, are full-time.

Foreign officials were brought into the league in late 2010 when Scottish referees went on strike in the wake of severe criticism and this season has seen referees been accused, among other things, of holding bias against certain clubs. The SFA’s disciplinary process has also been roundly criticised.

Rodgers had kept away from the issue but his comments are bound to stun SFA bosses.

The Celtic manager said: “There is a wider issue around refereeing. Do you have enough up here? Is there a big enough pool of refs or does the net need to be spread wider?

"There is a real focus on the game here in Scotland, so do you need to branch that out? Should it be opened up to give more opportunities for refs to come into here - not just Scottish ones.

“And I’m not just saying for high profile games. This is a fanatical football country but there’s a really small pool of referees. If something happens or they need help, there’s no way to do it. You can’t demote as there’s no one there to do it.

“There’s a constant pressure on them. It’s definitely something for me that has to be looked at; open it up.

“You want to attract more referees, why close it to just here? Open it up and have the best referees that could maybe come from England or Wales, or wherever. Then you have a diverse group of referees.

"Okay, they might need help with expenses or whatever, if they are coming up from Swansea, but it just opens up the pool.

“That will also help the local refs. It’s about constant education but it doesn’t shine the torch on the same referees all of the time.”

Asked if referees from the rest of the UK or overseas should be brought in just for the bigger matches, such as Old Firm games, Rodgers said: “It’s about where the needs are. There’s probably no need in England, the country is bigger and they have full time referees. There is a clear pathway for them.

“It just seems here the pool is shallow. Up here they are a big younger, they are not full time, so how can we help them?"

Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre is a doubt for Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie with St Johnstone having been the victim of bad challenge by Hibernian’s Darnell Johnson who faces a two-match ban but received a yellow card by Craig Thompson.

And the inconsistency of the disciplinary process this season in terns of retrospective bans has been an issue for Rodgers and his contemporaries.

Rodgers said: “Does player safety remain a concern? Yes. I said in my first year here that some of the sanctions here surprise me - it's a wee bit bitty

“I don't tend to go after the referees in these situations as it's simple for me. The poor guys refereeing the games are amateurs. with all due respect. The spotlight is on them severely from a professional side.

"They are going to make mistakes and then the aftermath seems a bit complicated. That will continue to be.”