Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has been accused of using his football connections to “curry favour with voters” following a complaint over the badge of governing body Fifa appearing on party leaflets.
Football bosses have been asked to investigate whether “meet Douglas Ross” mailings broke the organisation’s strict neutrality rules by featuring a picture of the Moray MP at his second job as a professional referee.
The same image was used by the Conservatives in a campaign calling on the Scottish Government to create a “fans fighting fund” to save Scottish football clubs from going to the wall during the coronavirus winter closedown.
Fifa’s own rules state it does not take a position “in matters of politics and religion” and, according to the Daily Record, a member of the Scottish Football Supporters Association has written to Fifa claiming Mr Ross used his image as an official “to try and benefit himself and his organisation with this endorsement”.
Andy Smith, chairman of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, said: “We were contacted by one of our members who wanted to register this as a complaint.
“We recommended that in the first instance he talk with the SFA and, if need be, take it to Fifa, which we know operates a confidential reporting process for such matters.”
It’s desperate. Football match officials are unlikely to ever rank top in a league of most loved professions but the Scottish Tories lag so far behind in the polls they’ll try anything – including breaching Fifa rules.”
Fifa and the Scottish Football Association did not respond to requests for comment but SNP depute leader Keith Brown accused Mr Ross of trying to “trade on his football connections to try to curry favour with voters”.
He said: “His political leaflets clearly show him in his linesman gear in what Fifa must regard as a flagrant breach of their rules on political neutrality.
“It’s desperate. Football match officials are unlikely to ever rank top in a league of most loved professions but the Scottish Tories lag so far behind in the polls they’ll try anything – including breaching Fifa rules.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said Mr Ross “will be happy to clarify matters with Fifa and is not aware of any concerns from the association”.
The footballing body has previously taken action against referees for falling foul of its statutes by giving unauthorised publicity to a political party.
Swiss politician Kurt Rothlisberger was suspended for three months in 1995 after being pictured in his official referee uniform and displaying the logo of his party next to the Fifa emblem.
The disciplinary committee said Rothlisberger had “misused his position as a Fifa referee for political ends and thus contravened article 2 of the Fifa statutes”.
Mr Ross, who was selected as leader earlier this year, apologised to Second World War veterans in his constituency after he missed a VJ Day anniversary event to officiate a match between Kilmarnock and St Johnstone.
He donated his fee from the game – believed to be around £445 – to Help for Heroes.