SCOTLAND’S managers and referees have been urged to defuse growing tensions over the use of VAR - by accepting a proposal put forward by Philippe Clement of Rangers and holding clear-the-air talks.

The Scottish Senior Football Referees’ Association (SSFRA) issued a strongly-worded statement on Monday night hitting out at “disproportionate and personal” criticism of their members and warning of the impact that can have on their “personal safety”.

That scathing missive was put out 24 hours after Brendan Rodgers had publicly bemoaned the “incompetence” of referees – an outburst which is likely to result in SFA disciplinary action - in the wake of a controversial cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Celtic at Tynecastle.

Rangers were widely condemned back in January when it became public that they had asked Crawford Allan, the governing body’s head of refereeing operations, for Willie Collum to be taken off their matches following a league defeat to their city rivals at Parkhead in December.

Des Roache, the former Category One official who now gives his opinions on Scottish football matters alongside his former colleague Steve Conroy on the Behind the Whistles podcast, stressed that club officials and managers have to be conscious of the abuse and threats which referees can be subjected to.

Clement stated last month that he would like to have a private meeting with his fellow managers and referees last month so that they could “share opinions” and Roache believes that would help to restore calm to the Scottish game.

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“For the SSFRA to feel the need to put that statement out, there must be a feeling within the refereeing fraternity that some things are getting too personalised,” he said. “Everyone has got a family life, has got wives, has got children.

“Referees don’t go out to make a mistake or have a bad game. But we are human beings and we will make errors. We have a responsibility to support one another within Scottish football. Managers don’t come out and slaughter players for a bad pass so I don’t think they should be criticising officials.  

“Things should be kept in-house. You can’t, for example, have a club dictating who referees a game. That is preposterous, just silly. Likewise, I don’t think criticism should be personalised. If clubs have got an issue, they have got a direct line to Crawford Allan at the SFA. Do it in the appropriate manner.”

The Herald: Roache went out on strike along with other Scottish referees back in 2010 following a series of high-profile controversies – and he does not sense that the current match officials are as unhappy about their treatment as they were back in those “dark days”.

However, he feels that meaningful dialogue between managers, players and referees is needed to quell growing ill-feeling throughout the game in this country ahead of what promises to be a highly-charged end to the 2023/24 campaign on and off the park.

Clement has expressed his unhappiness at many of the decisions which have been given against Rangers since he arrived in Scotland back in October – but the Belgian stated he would like the chance to talk over the concerns which he has with match officials and managers.

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“Back in 2010, certain referees were being followed, they were being photographed in their private life, their children were being photographed,” said Roache. “I would hope with the personalities and professionalism of the people who are involved in the game now that they can talk. It is always good to talk. 

“I saw that Philippe Clement had expressed a desire to have a meeting with other managers and referees and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I know that managers and captains are invited in to Hampden at the start of the season and have all the different law changes explained to them. But I think that should happen during the season as well.

“I actually think that referees should go in to clubs during the season as well, do a bit of training with them, have lunch with them, whatever. That would help to take away that ‘them and us’ mentality that prevails. I think that would get the referees a lot of goodwill and I actually think they would enjoy it as well.

“If a referee can explain to a player or a manager face-to-face when they made a certain decision I think they would be more accepting of it in future. I think there is a lot of questions over the use of VAR and the interpretation of the rules when people are using it. The technology works, that is not the issue. It is the people who use it, that is the issue. But it is always good to talk.”