Opinion: Andrew Dallas can be Scotland’s best referee

Why Andrew Dallas has the potential, in time, to be Scottish football’s leading referee – just like his father more than a decade ago.

Referee Andrew Dallas
Target: Dallas has been lambasted by fans, pundits and managers for his decision-making for many years (Picture from BBC Scotland)

As far as the limelight in Scottish football is concerned, referee Andrew Dallas isn’t normally too far away from the headlines – for one reason or another.

He has been the subject of ridicule and constant criticism since taking up the whistle in 2012/13, particularly when stepping up to the unforgiving environment of the Scottish Premiership at the start of the 2014/15 season.

It would be fair to say it has sometimes been warranted but too often it has gone too far, although not quite to the level experienced by his colleague Willie Collum, who received death threats after awarding a controversial penalty in an Old Firm match in 2010.

Dallas has often been too brash and almost tried too hard to get himself noticed but has come a long way since being branded ‘devious and manipulative’ by Kenny Shiels in 2013 and ‘not ready’ to officiate in the top flight by John Hughes in 2015.

Mistakes are part and parcel of the game and a referee’s development. Like any official, he has had his fair share.

Referee Andrew Dallas
Top flight: Dallas has handled more than 50 Premiership games since his promotion in 2014 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Dallas wrongly booked Hearts midfielder Malaury Martin, thinking he had tripped Motherwell’s Louis Moult, when in fact the striker had fallen over his own team-mate Lionel Ainsworth in a Premiership clash at Tynecastle in February 2017. In fairness, he later rang then Hearts boss Ian Cathro to apologise for the error.

Back in August, Partick Thistle boss Alan Archibald was left in doubt that Dallas should have awarded a last-minute penalty for his side, who were trailing 1-0 to Celtic in the Glasgow derby at Firhill when Nir Bitton appeared to impede Miles Storey in the box.

More recently, he gave St Johnstone midfielder David Wotherspoon his marching orders for a second bookable offence in their 1-0 defeat at Hearts – a decision which was branded ‘ridiculous’ by Saints boss Tommy Wright, who appears to have his own vendetta against Dallas.

“Same old, same old with that same referee,” Wright told BBC Scotland after the game. “I have been [disappointed] most of the times I’ve had him. I have probably spoken to [SFA Head of Referee Operations] John Fleming more about Andrew Dallas than any referee. Nothing seems to change.”

He has been under-fire and naturally took time to adapt to the rigours of the rough and tumble of Premiership football but has come on leaps and downs, in the last 12 months alone.

Earlier this month, Dallas was slammed on social media for disallowing an early goal for Motherwell in their Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Hearts but, by the letter of the law, which the referees know inside out, he was spot on as Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin had the ball within his grasp – even if it was just with one hand.

He was also right to award Hearts a penalty after Cedric Kipre wiped out Steven Naismith and ignore appeals for a second spotkick for Craig Levein’s side late on for handball after the ball struck Andy Rose, but it wasn’t intentional. Getting the big calls right is the main thing that should be expected of a referee and he did that in the important tie at Fir Park.

His appointment to the second major domestic showpiece of the season – the Challenge Cup final between Dumbarton and Inverness Caley Thistle – was fully merited and will no doubt be the first final of many for the 35-year-old during his career.

Although it’s the least glamorous trophy of them all, it was still a big occasion for the two Championship clubs that he knew well, at a ground he has become accustomed to refereeing at in St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park.

Proud moment: Dallas lined up alongside assistants David Roome and Daniel McFarlane ahead of his first major final (Picture from BBC ALBA)

He put in a solid display overall and stayed under the radar – issuing five yellow cards and correctly awarding Inverness a late penalty for handball by Dumbarton left-back Chris McLaughlin, which Iain Vigurs had saved by Sons stopper Scott Gallacher before Carl Tremarco spared his team-mate’s blushes with a last-gasp winner.

Being awarded the final of the competition which is primarily for Championship, League One and League Two clubs in Scotland acted as a springboard in the successful careers of fellow officials Craig Thomson and Calum Murray, to name but two.

Despite some boos ringing around the ground as he stepped up to collect his medal after the game, Dallas could be happy of his performance and undoubtedly his father Hugh would have been proud of his display as he watched on from the stands.

Dallas has the shadow of his dad – the last Scotsman to go to a World Cup who spent 15 years officiating in Scotland before hanging up his whistle in 2005 – to contend with and there are always going to be comparisons drawn between them.

Roles: Dallas acted as a referee observer for the SPL and then UEFA after retiring as a referee (Picture from Zimbio.co.uk)

But he has spoken in the past about how his old man has been “invaluable” to him and he was the one who suggested that he took up the whistle in the first place. Claims that he has progressed as far as he has to date because of his father’s stature are also unfair, because he has reached the highest level on merit through his own hard work and determination.

Dallas has already demonstrated his capabilities and didn’t get fast-tracked on to the Fifa list in January 2015 for no reason.

2017/18 really has been a breakthrough campaign for the promising official, who has handled matches in the Europa League, a 2018 World Cup qualifier, a Champions League qualifier and numerous European youth games.

Closer to home, he’s been trusted with some key top-flight matches – including an Edinburgh derby debut in October, Rangers’ 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Ibrox in November and Hibernian’s 2-0 victory over the Dons in another significant contest in the battle to finish the best of the rest behind Celtic.

It is evident that the Scottish Football Association are fully behind Dallas, who is not afraid to give big decisions and generally stays calm under intense pressure – even on the big stage.

With Collum and Thomson out in front as Scotland’s leading officials, Dallas has some way to go to join the elite but the signs are there that he can at least be third in line for high-profile games on the domestic front and even go on to follow the footsteps of the pair – and his father before them – on the European and international scene.

He has already reaped the benefits of working closely with Collum, who he has regularly trained with, and being coached by fellow Fifa whistler Steven McLean.

“They’ve been fantastic in offering advice and encouragement and they’re always available for a chat about decisions and incidents from matches,” Dallas once said in an interview.

Referee Andrew Dallas in action
On the way up: Dallas has rapidly risen through the ranks but still has work to do to reach the levels his father Hugh did during his distinguished career (Picture from Sky Sports)

He got a bird’s eye view of Collum’s excellent display in Celtic’s 3-2 win over Rangers at Ibrox as the fourth official – a selective appointment made with careful consideration.

Selecting him to carry out electronic board duties undoubtedly had the near future in mind and suggests an Old Firm derby debut in the middle isn’t too far away, particularly as he’s the last of the seven Fifa referees to get a first taste of one of world football’s fiercest rivalries.

It could happen as early as next month in the Scottish Cup semi-final showdown at Hampden Park but it’s more likely to be a more experienced official in charge given the magnitude of the occasion.

Last May, former top-flight referee Charlie Richmond expressed his belief that Dallas is under more pressure to perform than some of his colleagues because of his father and still had plenty to prove.

“If he is to avoid having the mud slung at him, he has to cut out the big mistakes because they are becoming too regular,” he wrote in his Daily Record column.

This season has been one of real progress for Dallas, who has learned a lot and proven he’s not just a rookie and gaffe-prone referee but can handle matches at a high level.

He still has hurdles to climb over but, with age on his side and advice readily on hand in the form of his old man, he has the potential to be the cream of the crop – if fans and pundits alike can cut him some slack and let him develop.

POLL: Have your say about Andrew Dallas by casting your vote below…

Scottish Cup: Thomson and Collum to referee Rangers and Celtic

Craig Thomson will be in the middle for Rangers against Motherwell at Ibrox, while Willie Collum has been appointed to Celtic’s fourth-round tie at Albion Rovers.

craig-thomson-and-willie-collum
Centre stage: Thomson (left) and Collum have attracted controversy in the past but have represented Scotland well on the European and international scene (Pictures from Sky Sports)

The heavyweights will be out in force as the match official appointments for the fourth round of the Scottish Cup have been announced.

Craig Thomson will take charge of the first tie of the weekend as Rangers face another Premiership side in Motherwell at Ibrox on Saturday (KO 12:30 GMT).

And fellow elite official Willie Collum will be in the middle for Celtic’s trip to League One Albion Rovers on Sunday – also live on Sky Sports – with kick-off at 15:00 GMT.

The other TV game will see John Beaton oversee Hearts’ match at Championship outfit Raith Rovers in front of the BBC Scotland cameras earlier on Sunday (KO 13:05 GMT).


Thomson makes Ibrox return

Craig Thomson referee
Veteran: Thomson is the longest-serving of the current crop of Scottish officials having refereed his first top-flight match in May 2002 (Picture from Sky Sports)

It will be the fourth time Thomson will encounter Rangers this season but his first trip to Ibrox for a year since giving them two penalties in their 4-1 win over Livingston on the way to the Championship title.

The vastly-experienced whistler handled their 2-1 win at Dundee in August, 1-0 loss to Celtic in the Old Firm League Cup semi-final, and 2-0 defeat at Hearts in November.

His only Motherwell matches were their 2-1 victory at Kilmarnock on the opening weekend and 1-1 draw at Partick Thistle in September.

Overall, the trained lawyer from Renfrewshire has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off seven players and awarded six penalties in 24 games in all competitions.

Thomson has previously officiated three Scottish Cup Finals – including Rangers’ 1-0 victory over Falkirk in the 2009 showpiece at Hampden.

He will be assisted by Alan Mulvanny and Andrew McWilliam, with Stephen Finnie on fourth official duties.

Earlier this season, Thomson was involved in a bitter spat with pundit Chris Sutton, who called him a ‘bottler’ after opting not to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 success at Dens Park.

He was also branded ‘the Scottish butcher’ by angry Besiktas players after a controversial performance in their pivotal 6-0 defeat at Dynamo Kiev during the Champions League group stages.


Collum reunited with Celtic

willie-collum-with-erik-sviatchenko-v-hamilton-24th-dec-2016
Spotlight: Collum has largely stayed under the radar after being dropped for a period last term following a number of contentious decisions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Collum usually officiates Celtic on a monthly basis but it will only be the third occasion he will oversee the champions so far this term.

The 2015 Uefa Super Cup and Euro 2016 referee put in a fine display in their 5-1 thumping of Rangers at Parkhead in September.

But he was criticised by Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers for sending off Calum McGregor in their 1-1 draw at Hamilton on Christmas Eve.

It will be the first time the Religious Education teacher will be in the middle for an Albion Rovers game, which will be staged at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium to allow extra fans to watch – a stone’s throw from where he resides in North Lanarkshire.

In 27 matches across six competitions this season, Glasgow-born Collum has dished out 89 bookings, issued five red cards and pointed to the penalty spot nine times.

The 37-year-old has handled two Scottish Cup Finals – the first of which was Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hibernian in 2013.

He will be assisted by Michael Banks and John McCrossan, while Gavin Duncan will act as the fourth official.

To his credit, the notoriously card-happy Collum has rarely attracted controversy this term.

The only notable occasion came when he was slated by fans on social media after harshly penalising Jamie MacDonald for a perceived foul on James Maddison, which led to Aberdeen’s opening goal in their 4-0 win at Kilmarnock in October.

You can see the rest of the Scottish Cup match official appointments here.

Scottish League Cup: Thomson and Clancy to referee semi-finals

Craig Thomson will handle his 13th Old Firm derby while Kevin Clancy will referee his first domestic cup semi-final in this weekend’s Betfred Cup last-four ties at Hampden Park.

craig-thomson-and-kevin-clancy
Chosen ones: Thomson (left) and Clancy have been handed the responsibility to oversee the 2016 League Cup last-four ties (Pictures from BBC Scotland and Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson and Kevin Clancy have been confirmed as the referees for this weekend’s Scottish League Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park.

Thomson will be in the middle for the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday (KO 14:05 BST).

Meanwhile, Clancy has been selected to officiate Premiership side Aberdeen against Championship outfit Greenock Morton on Saturday (KO 12:15 BST).

Both ties will be televised live on BT Sport.


The perennial Old Firm whistler…

Craig Thomson (Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi - 17th April 2016)
For the big occasion: It will be Thomson’s 17th domestic match at Hampden and his 10th cup semi-final (Picture from Sky Sports)

It may be an unlucky number for some but Thomson will be hoping it will bring him some fortune as he prepares for his 13th Old Firm derby – no other referee has handled more than five.

His first derby came back in 2006 and he has since built up a wealth of experience in handling Scottish football’s most explosive duel in cup finals, crucial league encounters and, more recently, semi-final battles.

It will be the third season in a row the Fifa whistler, who went to Euro 2012, will manage a cup semi-final between the sides at the national stadium – after Celtic’s 2-0 League Cup win in 2015 and Rangers’ Scottish Cup win on penalties earlier this year.

David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny will assist Thomson, with Steven McLean taking the fourth official reins.

craig-thomson-speaks-to-scott-brown-v-rangers-17th-april-2016
Longest-serving: Thomson has officiated in Scotland’s top-flight since 2002 and appointed Fifa status a year later (Picture from Sky Sports)

It was widely expected McLean or Bobby Madden might be entrusted with their first Old Firm derbies as Thomson and Willie Collum – who oversaw his third when Celtic thrashed Rangers 5-1 last month – are the only officials among the current crop to have previously refereed the fixture.

But, with a place in November’s Betfred Cup Final at stake, they have called on the vastly experienced Thomson to make the decisions for the latest meeting of Glasgow’s biggest rivals.

The former lawyer, from Renfrewshire, oversaw the League Cup final meeting between the sides in 2011 – awarding Rangers a penalty before reversing his decision and sending off Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre in an eventual 2-1 win for the Ibrox side.

Earlier this season, he was involved in a bitter spat with pundit Chris Sutton, who called him a ‘bottler’ after opting not to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 win at Dundee.

Meanwhile, a week later and also in front of the BT cameras, Thomson refused to co-operate with the broadcaster’s staff before starting the second half of Celtic’s 4-2 win at St Johnstone more than a minute ahead of schedule.

They are the only occasions Thomson, who has handled three Scottish Cup and three League Cup Finals, has encountered either of the Old Firm sides this term.

The 44-year-old handled Copenhagen’s 4-0 win over Club Brugge in last month’s Champions League group match and the Netherlands’ 4-1 victory over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.

But he has only refereed one previous League Cup tie this season – Aberdeen’s last-gasp 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at Pittodrie in the quarter-finals.

Overall, Thomson has issued 51 yellow cards, sent off three players and awarded four penalties in 12 games across five different competitions so far this term.

REACTION:

Celtic fans have been particularly vocal on social media, expressing their disappointment that the Scottish FA have again looked towards Thomson to keep the peace in the Glasgow derby…


Another step in Clancy’s burgeoning reputation…

Kevin Clancy before the 2016 Scottish League Cup Final
Footnote: Clancy is widely regarded as a lenient and respectable referee who keeps control of games well and rarely attracts controversy (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Despite several appearances as a fourth official and additional assistant, it will only be the second time Clancy steps out as referee at the national stadium.

The Glasgow-born whistler will still have fond memories of his previous visit after overseeing his first major final in last season’s League Cup showpiece, booking only two players as Ross County beat Hibernian 2-1.

He was also in the middle for Rangers’ shock 1-0 defeat by Raith Rovers in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final at Hibs’ Easter Road.

Surprisingly, it will be the 32-year-old’s first ever domestic cup semi as referee too – in this his fifth season officiating in Scotland’s top-flight.

Former lawyer Clancy has previously been the fourth official for the 2013 and 2015 League Cup Final – as well as Ross County’s 3-1 semi-final win over Celtic last term, which was refereed by Thomson.

He was also an additional assistant referee in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final at Celtic Park and Rangers’ Scottish Cup semi win over Celtic on penalties, as well as European games such as the 2015 Uefa Super Cup.

But the Renfrewshire-based official missed out on a place in Willie Collum’s team of officials for Euro 2016 last summer, with Bobby Madden and John Beaton selected for the role.

Kevin Clancy (Dundee v Dundee Utd - 2nd January 2016)
Big games: Clancy has handled several Europa League matches as well as Dundee and Edinburgh derbies domestically (Picture from Sky Sports)

Clancy has encountered both sides once in league games this term – issuing seven yellows in Aberdeen’s goalless draw with Hearts in August and booking six players in Morton’s 2-1 victory over Dunfermline.

It will be his fifth League Cup tie of the campaign after Partick Thistle’s 1-0 win at Airdrieonians, Dundee’s 6-2 victory over Dumbarton, Alloa’s 1-0 success at Raith Rovers, and Celtic’s 5-0 win over Motherwell in the last 16 phase.

Overall, Clancy has brandished 54 yellow cards, sent off Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor in their 1-1 draw with Rangers in August, and pointed to the penalty spot three times in 13 matches in all competitions.

Clancy first took up the whistle in 2000 and was admitted to the Scottish FA five years later before overseeing his first SPL match in 2012.

Such was his fast progression, he was even recognised by Fifa – one of seven currently from Scotland on the list – before his promotion to the top-flight had been confirmed.

Among Clancy’s other high-profile appointments was the Championship play-off semi first leg between Hamilton Accies and Falkirk in 2014 and Queen’s Park’s League One play-off second leg win over Clyde last term.

At Hampden, he will be assisted by Alastair Mather and Gordon Crawford, while Euan Anderson will be on electronic board duties as fourth official.

2014 winners Aberdeen have complained about the scheduling of the tie, with the lunchtime kick-off not giving enough time for their travelling support to make the trip from the north east.

Champions League: Referees Clattenburg, Oliver and Thomson in action

Mark Clattenburg, Craig Thomson and Michael Oliver have been chosen to referee their first group stage matches in the Champions League this season on Tuesday night.

Mark Clattenburg
The chosen ones: Clattenburg (left), Thomson (middle) and Oliver (right) will all be hoping to stay out of the headlines when on duty on Tuesday night (Pictures from Sky Sports)

BRITISH referees Mark Clattenburg, Michael Oliver and Craig Thomson will take charge of matches in the second round of Champions League group stage fixtures on Tuesday. 

England’s leading official Clattenburg will handle Group F’s marquee showdown between Borussia Dortmund and holders Real Madrid in Germany.

Fellow countryman Michael Oliver will make his refereeing debut in the Champions League proper when Sporting Lisbon host Legia Warsaw in Group F.

Scotland’s Thomson has been assigned to Copenhagen against Club Brugge in the Danish capital.

In Group G’s other game, Cuneyt Cakir of Turkey will be in the middle for English champions Leicester City’s first European home game against FC Porto.

And Spanish referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz has been appointed to Tottenham’s first away game in Group E against Russian side CSKA Moscow.

Clattenburg will encounter Real for the first time since their victory over Madrid rivals Atletico on penalties in last season’s final at Milan’s San Siro.

It was one of three major showpiece games he has received during a memorable year for the Newcastle-based whistler – including the FA Cup Final at Wembley and Euro 2016 Final at the Parc des Princes.

The 41-year-old has enjoyed a mixed start to the Premier League season but was criticised for failing to award penalties in Leicester’s goalless draw with Arsenal and the Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

He will be ably assisted at the Westfalenstadion by his regular linesmen Jake Collin and Simon Bennett, additional assistants Andre Marriner and Lee Mason, as well as fourth official Harry Lennard.

Meanwhile, Oliver will arguably handle the biggest game of his career thus far, having never previously ventured beyond the qualifying stage of Europe’s premier competition as the man in the middle.

The Northumberland whistler – who went to Euro 2016 as an additional assistant referee – incurred the wrath of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho after their 3-1 defeat at Watford earlier this month.

He is used to the big game occasion with six games at Wembley under his belt at the tender age of 31, while his display was credible in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Chelsea last weekend.

Oliver will be able to lean on the experience of Stuart Burt and Gary Beswick, additional assistants Craig Pawson and Jon Moss, as well as fourth official Stephen Child.

Elsewhere, Thomson has played second fiddle in Scotland this year to Willie Collum, who was preferred as their Euro 2016 representative and the first Old Firm derby of the season between Celtic and Rangers.

It completes a busy week for the former lawyer, who oversaw Aberdeen’s League Cup win over St Johnstone on Thursday night and Partick Thistle’s 1-1 draw with Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.

The Paisley referee will be joined by David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny, additional assistants Steven McLean and Andrew Dallas, and Graeme Stewart as fourth official.

And Leicester will be in capable hands for their Champions League bow at the King Power Stadium, in the form of experienced disciplinarian Cakir.

The insurance agent, who took charge of Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Juventus in the 2015 final, made history in the competition last term by becoming the first referee to oversee consecutive semi-final matches.

Istanbul-based Cakir has also handled last-four games at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, while he was also selected for Euro 2016 and the summer’s Olympic Games men’s football tournament in Rio.

But he has a history of upsetting English teams in the past with controversial decisions against them, not least Manchester United for the dismissal of Nani in their last-16 defeat against Real Madrid in 2013.

Cakir’s team of officials consists of Bahattin Duran, Tarik Ongun, Huseyin Gocek, Baris Simsek and Emre Eyisoy.

Spurs’ trip to Moscow presents another testing encounter for Lahoz, who has taken over the mantle of Spain’s number one official following the retirement of Carlos Velasco Carballo.

The Valencia-based referee has officiated four El Clasico games between Barcelona and Real Madrid, and is a familiar face to English teams having encountered three in his four Champions League games last season.

He controlled United’s 4-0 play-off second-leg win at Club Brugges, Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Porto in the group stages and Manchester City’s 3-1 win at Dynamo Kiev in the quarter-finals.

You can view the full list of match official appointments here.

Craig Thomson in charge of St Johnstone v Celtic

The experienced Paisley whistler is the referee for the champions’ Saturday lunchtime trip to McDiarmid Park.

Craig Thomson (Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi - 17th April 2016)
Vast: The former solicitor was promoted to a Category One official in 2002 after just two years in the SFL and was named on the Fifa list 12 months later (Picture from Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson will be the man in the middle for Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter against St Johnstone on Saturday.

The experienced 44-year-old has been assigned to his second successive lunchtime kick-off when the champions make the trip to McDiarmid Park (KO 12:15pm, live on BT Sport).

It will be his third match of the campaign – all in the top-flight – after Rangers’ 2-1 win at Dundee last weekend and Motherwell’s victory over Kilmarnock by the same scoreline on the opening day.

He has issued four yellow cards in each but opted not to send off Gers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence at Dens Park last time out – even Rangers boss Mark Warburton admitted another referee might have done so.

Thomson did, however, give Killie boss Lee Clark his marching orders after just 10 minutes the week before at Rugby Park on the advice of the fourth official.

He officiated 44 matches across eight competitions last season – brandishing 181 yellow cards, sending off eight players and awarding 19 penalties.

The Edinburgh-born whistler also handled Celtic’s second league game last term – booking six players during their 4-2 win over Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead.

He oversaw three other Hoops games in 2015-16 – their 2-1 defeat at Aberdeen in September, 5-0 win over Dundee United in October, and the 1-1 draw at Hamilton in February in which he controversially sent off Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata.

Thomson also handled both their domestic cup semi-final losses – dismissing Efe Ambrose early on in the 3-1 defeat to Ross County in the League Cup and keeping a lid on the thrilling Scottish Cup Old Firm clash as Rangers progressed on penalties.

Craig Thomson referee
Secondary: Thomson is no longer preferred to officiate the so-called “big games” in Scottish football, with Willie Collum considered the leading official (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Renfrewshire-based official also encountered St Johnstone seven times last season – including their 2-1 win over Motherwell 12 months ago, 3-1 League Cup quarter-final win at Morton and, most recently, the 3-0 win over Aberdeen in April.

He was also the man in charge of the Saints’ biggest game in their 132-year history when they beat Dundee United 2-0 at Celtic’s Parkhead in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final to clinch their first major trophy.

It’s one of three Scottish Cup Finals that Thomson has overseen as referee, as well as three Scottish League Cup Finals on his CV.

His vast experience as the longest-serving official amongst the current crop includes 16 games at Hampden Park, a number of play-off matches across the divisions, Champions League and Europa League games, international asssignments and selection to officiate at Euro 2012.

Thomson oversaw Celtic’s 1-0 victory at McDiarmid Park on Boxing Day in 2013 but has only handled two other league games between the sides.

He will be assisted on the day by David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny, with Andrew Dallas the fourth official.

Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic have not played in the league since their 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on the opening weekend after cancelling their fixture with home game against Partick Thistle to play in a friendly against Inter Milan, much to Alan Archibald’s dismay.

As the Hoops chase a sixth successive title this term, St Johnstone are looking to finish in the top-six for the sixth season in a row.

Tommy Wright’s men have started off the league campaign positively, with a goalless draw at home to Aberdeen and 2-1 win against Motherwell at Fir Park last Saturday.

You can view the rest of the weekend’s appointments here.

Craig Thomson to referee Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi-final

Referees Craig Thomson and John Beaton will take charge of the Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park later this month, with the help of additional assistants.

Craig Thomson referee
Veteran: Thomson will oversee his third Scottish Cup semi-final and 12th Old Firm derby (Picture from Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson has been confirmed as the referee for the Scottish Cup semi-final between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday, April 17.

The 43-year-old will take charge of the eagerly-awaited Old Firm clash between the Glasgow rivals at Hampden Park (KO 12:00 BST).

He will be assisted by linesmen Alan Mulvanny and Douglas Ross, fourth official Bobby Madden and additional assistant referees Kevin Clancy and Don Robertson.

Thomson also officiated the League Cup semi-final last season which was the first meeting between the sides in three years, when Celtic won 2-0 in a largely incident-free encounter.

The longest-serving of the current crop of Scottish officials, he has a wealth of experience having handled 11 previous Old Firm derbies, with the first coming in April 2006.

Those past encounters include the 2011 League Cup Final at the national stadium in which the Paisley lawyer dismissed Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre for a professional foul and overturned a penalty given to the Gers, who won 2-1 after extra time.

It will be his 16th domestic match at Hampden Park and ninth cup semi-final – a first in the Scottish Cup since Celtic’s 4-3 win over Dundee United in 2013.

Thomson – who has handled three Scottish Cup and three League Cup finals – was in the middle for Celtic’s 3-1 League Cup semi defeat by Ross County in January, in which he sent off Efe Ambrose early on.

The Renfrewshire whistler – who was overlooked for Euro 2016, with Willie Collum preferred instead – has awarded more penalties (17) than any other Scottish official so far this season.

He has also distributed an astonishing 149 yellow cards – and eight reds – in 37 matches in all competitions.

It will be the seventh time that Thomson oversees Celtic this term, while he has only encountered Rangers in their 4-1 Championship win over Livingston in January when he awarded them two penalties.

Craig Thomson's 2015-16 record so far
Statistics: How Thomson’s 2015-16 campaign has shaped up so far (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)


John Beaton speaks with Hibernian's Fraser Fyvie against Rangers
In control: Beaton was the man in the middle for Hibs’ 2-1 win over Rangers on November 1 at Easter Road (Picture from Sky Sports)

Meanwhile, John Beaton will take charge of the other semi-final between Hibernian and Dundee United.

He will be in the middle as Championship side Hibs tussle with the Premiership’s bottom club at the national stadium on Saturday, April 16 (KO 12:15 BST).

Beaton will be working alongside Graham Chambers and Stuart Stevenson, with Euan Anderson the fourth official – as he was for a League Cup semi in January. The goal-line officials are Andrew Dallas and Alan Muir.

Incidentally, Muir was behind the goal in the Scottish Cup semi 12 months ago when a handball on the line by Inverness’ Josh Meekings went unspotted in their controversial 3-2 extra-time win over Celtic.

Beaton was also involved in last year’s semi-finals as referee for Hibernian’s 1-0 defeat by fellow Championship side Falkirk.

He was also the fourth official when Hibs beat Falkirk 4-3 in the Scottish Cup semis in 2013 but ended up refereeing the extra-time period after Iain Brines came off injured.

Beaton oversaw a League Cup semi-final in 2014, sending off two Inverness players as Caley Thistle beat Hearts on penalties at Hibs’ Easter Road stadium.

It will be the fifth time that the Lanarkshire whistler will oversee both Dundee United and Hearts in all competitions this term.

The 34-year-old was in the middle for the 2015 Challenge Cup Final – his only major final to date – but was fourth official for the 2014 League Cup Final and an additional assistant for the 2013 Scottish Cup Final.

Beaton will also be going to Euro 2016 as a goal-line official as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for the summer tournament in France.

John Beaton's 2015-16 record so far
Record: How Beaton’s busy season has panned out to date (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

Thomson and Beaton handled both Edinburgh derby meetings between Hibs and Hearts in the quarter-finals, with Beaton sending off two players in the Easter Road replay which Hibs won 1-0.

Two-time winners Hibs have not lifted the Scottish Cup since 1902 as they bid to reach their second major cup final of the season after losing 2-1 to Ross County in the League Cup showpiece last month.

Dundee United have also won the competition twice but were runners-up in 2014 after losing 2-0 to St Johnstone in the final at Celtic Park. They last reached the semi stage three years ago.

Rangers – who have not won the Scottish Cup since 2009 – have secured promotion to the Scottish Premiership in boss Mark Warburton’s debut season to ensure the Old Firm derby returns to the top-flight next season.

Premiership leaders Celtic are bidding to reach their first Scottish Cup final since 2013 in Ronny Deila’s second campaign in charge.

Both ties will be screened live on Sky Sports, while Hibs v Dundee United will also be shown on BBC Scotland.

Craig Thomson to referee Scottish Cup Edinburgh derby

Craig Thomson will take charge of his sixth Edinburgh derby when capital rivals Hearts and Hibernian lock horns for a place in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Craig Thomson (League Cup semi Ross County v Celtic - 31st Jan 2016)
Close to home: Thomson was born in Edinburgh and grew up in the capital before moving north to Renfrewshire (Picture from BBC Scotland)

CRAIG Thomson will be the man in charge for the Scottish Cup fifth round tie between Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibernian this weekend.

The 43-year-old will oversee the marquee tie of the round when the Premiership club welcome the League Cup finalists to Tynecastle on Sunday lunchtime (KO 12:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports 2).

He will be assisted by linesmen Frank Connor and Andrew McWilliam, while Kevin Clancy – who refereed the last meeting between the sides – is the fourth official.

The vastly-experienced Thomson, from Renfrewshire, will handle his sixth Edinburgh derby in total and first since August 2013.

He has officiated 28 games in all competitions so far this season – brandishing 119 yellow cards, sending off six players and awarding 14 penalties.

The Paisley-based whistler was in the middle for Ross County’s 3-1 win over Celtic in last weekend’s eventful League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park.

Craig Thomson sends off Efe Ambrose (v Ross County)
Seeing red: Thomson gave Ambrose his marching orders after 13 minutes before County converted the resulting penalty (Picture from BBC Scotland)

He sent off Celtic defender Efe Ambrose for a last-man foul on Alex Schalk and pointed to the spot, but allowed Paul Quinn’s goal to stand despite an apparent foul by Schalk on Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon in the build-up.

County substitute Brian Graham was also harshly penalised for handball in the box for Leigh Griffiths’ missed penalty late on.

Thomson will oversee his fourth Hearts match of the campaign after their 2-1 win at Dundee in August, 3-2 League Cup victory at Kilmarnock in September and 1-0 defeat by Aberdeen in December, in which he penalised Jordon McGhee’s inexplicable handball for the late Dons spotkick.

His only Hibernian game of 2015-16 was their 2-1 Championship win over Livingston at Easter Road in November.

Craig Thomson (Dundee Utd v Celtic Scottish Cup - 8th Mar 15)
Last round: Thomson was in control of Partick Thistle’s 2-1 win over St Mirren in his home town of Paisley (Picture from Sky Sports)

Thomson will be remembered by fans of both clubs for taking charge of the 2012 Scottish Cup Final, during which he dismissed Hibs defender Pa Kujabi for a second yellow card and awarded Hearts a penalty for a foul which took place outside the box, with the score at 2-1.

Danny Grainger went on to convert the spotkick as Hearts ran out eventual 5-1 winners at the national stadium, with Thomson attracting criticism from the Hibs contingent for what they felt was a poor all-round display from the official.

Thomson, who was a construction lawyer before becoming a full-time official, is the most experienced of the current crop of Scottish referees having first taken up the whistle in 1988.

After two years in the Scottish Football League, he was promoted to the top-flight in 2002 and was elevated to the Fifa list just a year later.

Thomson was called up for the 2012 European Championships – his only major international tournament – but was overlooked for the 2014 World Cup and Willie Collum has been preferred as Scotland’s representative at Euro 2016.

Craig Thomson referee
For the big occasion: Thomson has handled three League Cup and three Scottish Cup finals as well as several semi-finals in both competitions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Hibernian won 1-0 at Easter Road in a fourth round tie in December 2012 when the two fierce rivals previously met in the Scottish Cup.

The Leith outfit also won 2-0 in the last meeting in the Championship last April although Hearts had already won the second-tier title.

Ahead of the 326th competitive derby, Hearts are third in the Premiership while Hibs sit eight points adrift of Championship leaders Rangers in second place.

Craig Thomson Edinburgh derby record (as of 2nd February 2016)

Given his history in this particular fixture, the appointment has not been welcomed by both sets of supporters…