THE Scottish referees’ branch of the Prospect union is to join forces with their English and Welsh counterparts in a bid to force the Scottish Football Association (SFA) to recognise a body they say represents around half of the leading match officials in this country.

The SFA have refused to officially engage with the Scottish referees branch of the Prospect union since it was set up back in 2014 and continued to deal with the Scottish Senior Football Referees’ Association (SSFRA).

However, the Scottish referees’ branch of the Prospect union was formed four years ago amid concerns about the SSFRA’s relationship with the SFA and a desire to give match officials an independent voice.

Its organisers claim it was the fastest-growing union in the United Kingdom after it was set up and that currently around half of the Category One, Two and Three referees in this country are members.

They also say that one Ladbrokes Premiership match last weekend was handled by a team of match officials – the referee, his two assistants and the fourth official – who were all Prospect union members.

The union has agreed to merge with their colleagues in the Sports Professionals Branch of Prospect down south - who negotiate terms and conditions on behalf of Premier League referees with the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd and Championship and National League One and Two match officials with the Football Association.

They hope teaming up with their senior colleagues in England and Wales will strengthen their position and force the SFA to enter into meaningful dialogue with them.

Prospect negotiating officer Ian Perth said: “We have been in on-going dialogue with Prospect’s national secretary, who negotiates terms and conditions on behalf of Premier League, Championship and National Referees and Assistants in England and Wales.

“We are in advanced discussions about the possibility of merging the Scottish referees branch with the Sport Professionals UK branch and we’re assessing the opportunities. Merging the branches will help us in our efforts to improve the terms of our members in Scotland.

“The benefits which referees in England and Wales get aren’t just for the full-time referees at the top level, they go right through the leagues and are for part-time referees as well. They get pension contributions and holiday pay even though they have full-time jobs.

“We believe that merging with the referees’ branch in England and Wales will give us that bit more bite in our attempts to get the SFA to sit around a table and listen to us. That is something that they don’t seem to be interested in.

“At the moment, they don’t deal with us, they only deal with the SSFRA. The SSFRA do a lot of good work and a lot of our members are their members.

“But the SFA refuse to recognise the Scottish referees branch of the Prospect union. In an age when companies like Ryanair and Sports Direct recognise and engage with trade unions it’s incredible that the SFA don’t.”

SFA head of referee operations John Fleming said: “We have a harmonious relationship with the SSFRA. The dialogue that we have with them on all matters relating to the game is positive and their views are welcomed by the Scottish FA.”