The Football Association of Ireland has refused to confirm whether it has been approached to supply replacement referees to the Scottish Football Association, amid a planned strike by referees in Scotland.
An FAI spokesman said: “If there is an official request we we will consider it but obviously we would have to consult with our referees first.”
The SFA tonight confirmed it had drafted contingency plans to bring in match officials from outside the country
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan expressed his support for under-fire referees and vowed to continue dialogue with their representatives to avert this weekend’s action.
But he added: “While we remain hopeful that the situation can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, we have no option but to draw up contingency plans, which will involve sourcing match officials in other countries.”
The Scottish Senior Referees Association have informed the governing body of their intention to refuse appointments this weekend after a unanimous vote at their monthly meeting on Sunday.
Referees acted amid fears one of their number would come under physical attack after a number reported being threatened at home, in the street and the workplace.
Regan said: “I have every sympathy for the refereeing fraternity at this time and completely understand why incessant scrutiny, criticism and questioning of their integrity has brought them to the brink of a withdrawal of labour.
“I cannot, however, condone what will amount to strike action and believe we must now engage in positive dialogue to avert the possibility that we will have no football this weekend. This scenario is not helpful to the image or reputation of the game.
“Fulfilling the weekend fixture calendar is our priority and we have an obligation to the leagues, supporters, clubs, sponsors and media partners to do our utmost to ensure all senior games are refereed.”
Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster backed the SFA's contingency plans and expressed his disappointment that the referees had called their strike out of the blue.
“We have had no dialogue with the referees and that’s one of the most disappointing things,” Doncaster told Sky Sports News. “This is a last option – we would expect it to be preceded by some conversations.
“The first thing I heard was that I got a call last night telling us there would be a strike. There is a right way to go about it and simply calling a strike is the wrong way.
“It has to be preceded by some conversations about concerns and no-one has come to us with any concerns.”
Doncaster is determined that supporters are able to watch their teams play this weekend.
“My hope is the strike will be called off but, if it’s not, I know the SFA have in place some contingency plans for this weekend,” he said.
“What is important is that the games go ahead. We have to put supporters first. It costs a lot of money and time to follow a club and to have this inconvenience thrown in their way is very, very unfortunate indeed.”
There have been suggestions that the SFA could look to the Republic of Ireland as the Airtricity League is in its close season.
A spokesman for the Football Association of Wales claimed it was highly unlikely they would be able to help out.
He said: “We only have a certain number for our own league and most of our guys will be involved working from our own point of view. We have had no approaches on that one.”
There have been suggestions that UEFA and the English Premier League would be approached if the strike action was confirmed.
But it is understood the Premier League do not have sufficient numbers of officials themselves to offer elsewhere, while all UEFA referees are all drawn from individual associations.