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Participants of Football Memories groups across Scotland will get the chance to hear from former referees as their whistle-stop tour, courtesy of Specsavers, kicks off.

Former referee Dougie Hope speaks at Hampden Football Memories group as Specsavers-sponsored tour kicks off

The official sponsors of the Scottish FA match officials have facilitated for retired refs to speak to participants of Football Memories, a project which assists people living with memory loss conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as those experiencing loneliness and social isolation.

The tour will stop in at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, with ex-whistler Dougie Hope getting proceedings under way at Hampden Park on January 25.

Dougie refereed over 1,000 matches in Scotland, his last being Dundee United’s 1-0 victory over Rangers in the 1994 Scottish Cup Final, and will recount his career to the group at the national stadium.

Martin Clark will host Edinburgh participants in February, John Rowbotham will talk to the Dundee group in March, while the Aberdeen speaker is yet to be confirmed for April’s meeting.

Established in 2009, Football Memories Scotland is a charitable project run by the Scottish Football Museum in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland.

With 500 groups around the country, often hosted in football settings, Football Memories uses engaging football-themed resources stored in a memory box, such as reminiscence cards, life-size player cutouts, newspaper clippings and books, to stir memories and discussions led by volunteers.

Specsavers will sponsor the boxes for the referee tour and have helped to provide some exciting new contents for them such as old school blazers, photographs of former referees and other memorabilia.

Long-term memories can be triggered for many through the visual cues of images, videos, artefacts and discussions taking place in a small group or even a one-to-one setting, unlocking precious happy moments from the past. The impact can be enormous.

Robert Craig, Chair of the Scottish Football Museum, says: ‘We are excited to get under way with the first activity in our new partnership with Specsavers.

‘Their support to the Football Memories project, which impacts the lives of all who touch it, is invaluable and helps us to continue to deliver for those living with memory loss conditions or experiencing isolation.

Crawford Allan, Scottish FA Head of Referee Operations, says: ‘Football Memories is a fantastic initiative and one our roster of former referees will gladly support, as an extension of our existing partnership with Specsavers.

‘We are sure their stories and treasured memorabilia will spark many happy memories.’

Specsavers’ Jill McArthur, Scottish Divisional Chair, says:

‘Specsavers is proud of our long tradition in backing Scottish referees, but our latest sponsorship deal sees us going further than ever, helping to raise awareness of the vital work Football Memories does in assisting people living with memory loss conditions.

‘We can’t wait to hear what questions the referees are fielded on their tour of the country and learn about the impact for those attending the groups.’

Specsavers announced in 2021 that it renewed its’ sponsorship deal with football referees in Scotland, marking over 20 years of support – one of the longest agreements of its kind in sport.

The deal has seen the partnership continue into 2024, not only helping with the training and development of referees, but also helping to raise awareness of para football and grassroots football in Scotland.

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