Hearts manager Craig Levein insists a better geographical spread of referees in Scottish football would ease the intense pressure and scrutiny on the game’s embattled officials.
Levein admits he is opposed to any ideas of foreign referees being hired to supplement the existing domestic stable and has denied that any such proposal was raised at Monday’s heated meeting between all 12 Premiership clubs and the Scottish FA.
Criticism of officials has reached frenzied levels this season, with accusations of bias a common claim being levelled at individuals by aggrieved supporters.
Indeed, Motherwell-based John Beaton allegedly receive threatening messages over his handling of the December’s Old Firm clash – and was subsequently given a police escort into Somerset Park for Ayr United’s visit of Falkirk on his next assignment.
Former Scotland manager Levein believes a high concentration of leading referees being based in the west is not healthy.
He said: “I’m amazed that (reports of foreign referees being hired) appeared because it was never discussed at Monday’s meeting.
“What is more significant for me is that we try to beef up and improve the number of referees who are in the game in Scotland.
“I spoke at length at the meeting about the anomalies.
“When you look at the referees, they have 12 associations and seven FIFA’s refs – (Beaton, Kevin Clancy, Willie Collum, Andrew Dallas, Bobby Madden, Don Robertson and Nick Walsh), five from Glasgow and two from Lanarkshire.
“The FIFA refs get all the big games, therefore they will get the Old Firm games and that means they live in and around the same areas as those supporters live.
“Rather than get a foreign ref, if we beef up the associations and have a more healthy geographical spread of Category One and FIFA refs then we could have an Aberdeen ref or Fife ref or an Edinburgh ref.
“And then when they go home after a game and wake up in the morning, they maybe have Aberdeen supporters in their street or a couple of Dundee supporters and one or two Old Firm supporters – but they are removed from the huge pressure and the kind of thing that happened to John Beaton.”
Levein, who is also an advocate of Video Assistant Referees, admits the much-maligned disciplinary process and instances of players being retrospectively cited needs clarified.
He added: “It has come under fire. The compliance officer (Clare Whyte) is trying very, very hard to get everything spot on and I think we’ve made it more complicated with the wording and it’s harder to understand.
“I’m sitting here talking about it but I actually don’t fully understand it myself.
“Previously, if I remember correctly, it was if the referee hasn’t seen something, but now it’s if the referee has missed an important part of the incident.
“So now it’s not as straightforward as whether the referee has seen it or not, it’s ‘has the referee missed a significant part?’ That’s a lot different to ‘have you seen it?’
“I just think it’s making it harder for the referees and confusing for the public. And once it gets confusing for the public, it becomes a problem because people want to know what’s going on.”
Meanwhile, Levein, whose side host St Mirren tomorrow, refused to rule out an interest in Livingston captain Craig Halkett after being linked with a pre-contract move for the defender.
He said: “I’m not getting into it. That’s next season.”