Scottish referee Bobby Madden expects 'surreal' atmosphere at behind-closed-doors matches
Madden would also welcome the introduction of VAR in Scotland but acknowledges there is no money available for it in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic
Last Updated: 17/06/20 6:20am
Referee Bobby Madden expects a surreal atmosphere to greet officials and players when football returns behind closed doors, with the absence of supporters likely to affect individuals in different ways.
Madden is a Scottish FA, UEFA and FIFA referee, which means he will have to wait to return to action following the decision to end the season in Scotland, with Celtic crowned champions for the ninth time in a row.
Match officials in England are preparing to get back out on the pitch, however, with the Premier League returning on Wednesday with a double header of matches, beginning with Aston Villa vs Sheffield United - live on Sky Sports.
Madden is convinced match officials will return in strong physical condition, although it remains to be seen how they will cope with the unusual circumstances of playing in an empty stadium.
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"Physically, everyone will be well prepared, because we are professional in how we apply ourselves," he told Sky Sports News.
"I fully expect we'll go in and hit the ground running but it will be a strange environment to go back into refereeing, as it looks right now as if we might return without spectators.
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"I've experienced it once, when Dynamo Moscow played Bayern Munich in a behind-closed-doors game.
"I would say the intensity is there but you don't have the pressure from the crowd. I think the tempo of the game can sometimes increase when the crowd become more animated and players feed off that.
"It will be surreal, particularly in the bigger matches, where you're used to there being 50-60,000 there.
"You'll need to make sure you're fully focused and motivated and I think you will be because if you think of the coverage these games are going to get, you can't afford to let your performances dip. You and tour future appointments are judged on that.
"There also might be some players who feel under pressure from spectators, who feel if they make a mistake they'll be on their back, so certain individuals might play with more freedom. You just don't know."
The possible introduction of VAR into Scottish football appeared destined to be a key talking point in the 2020/21 season but any decision on that will have to wait a little longer.
Scottish FA CEO Ian Maxwell revealed to Sky Sports in a recent interview that the costs involved are currently too prohibitive as clubs cope with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Madden believes it will prove to be a welcome addition, however, if and when it does finally arrive in Scotland - as long as it is utilised correctly.
"It's disappointing not to have VAR. It would be good experience for the referees but more importantly it gives a greater accuracy in crucial match decisions," he added.
"I think any tool that will help the match referees to make those decisions, we should be trying to utilise.
"It's going to be pushed further down the line and how far, I don't know.
"VAR is a great tool if used correctly and the sooner it comes into Scottish football, the better for everyone."