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By ESPN Staff

SPL to start on time as refs' strike averted

A strike by referees that could have delayed the start of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League season has been averted after an agreement was reached over match fees.

Scottish Senior Referees' Association chief Stuart Dougal confirmed a fee of £800 per game had been agreed, with assistant referees receiving an increase to £400 and the figure for fourth officials rising to £200.

The SSFRA will now co-operate with a forthcoming review to cement their interim rise, and they are optimistic comparisons with leagues on the continent will take their pay above the provisional £800 figure.

Dougal said: 'The SSFRA today agreed the figure of £800/400/200 as the accepted fee structure for SPL (Scottish Premier League) games for the coming season.

'This allows the season to begin as scheduled on Saturday.

'We have further agreed to engage in a benchmarking process with appropriate European leagues.

'We are confident that we will not only secure but enhance the £800 figure we initially proposed.'

SPL operations director Iain Blair explained the discussions will enable the full programme of games to go ahead as scheduled.

He added: 'Contrary to speculation, the Clydesdale Bank Premier League fixtures this weekend will go ahead as planned.

'At a meeting today with the SFA and the SSFRA, the SPL undertook to carry out a benchmarking exercise across European football to establish the appropriate fees going forward. The referees are seeking £800 per match.

'This exercise will involve the participation of all parties over the next six weeks or so.'

The decision came as Dundee United manager Craig Levein was fined £5,000 by the Scottish Football Association for his stinging criticism of referee Mike McCurry.

Levein claimed the referee 'bottled' several major decisions during his side's 3-1 defeat by Rangers in May.

The United boss received his punishment after the SFA's general purposes committee found him guilty of 'bringing the game into disrepute' and 'criticising the performance of match officials in such a way as to indicate bias or incompetence'.

Levein had hit out after United were denied a strong penalty claim and had a goal disallowed.

McCurry later admitted both decisions were wrong but that failed to stop a row blowing up between the SFA and United.

United made an official complaint over McCurry's performance while SFA chief executive Gordon Smith branded Levein's criticism 'extremely unfair'.

The club then threatened legal action after SFA president George Peat described Levein's comments as 'criminal' ahead of the committee's decision on whether he should face charges.

United revealed their manager would speak to chairman Eddie Thompson and his legal advisor before deciding whether he should appeal.

After the decision, Levein said: 'I said what I honestly felt at the time. It was a poor performance and I'm still angry about it. I wasn't going to go in and apologise for anything I said.'

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