Not the usual kind of hacker referee Paul has to deal with

Paul O'Neill (left) on duty at Recreation Park
Paul O'Neill (left) on duty at Recreation Park

One of Scotland’s top football officials went into extra time this weekend to tackle the impact of cyber hackers on NHS Lanarkshire.

As well as being a specialist assistant referee Paul O’Neill from Motherwell manages 100 frontline staff for South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

Not only did he have to deal with the challenge of a Ransomware virus targeting the health board’s computers, he also officiated at a high-profile game during a non-stop weekend.

Paul said: “The overriding focus was patient safety and ensuring we were able to provide care for those requiring medical support, especially via the out of hours services.

“From Friday night, when we knew the organisation had been affected, the first priority was to make sure staff were fully aware of what was happening – even although there was no access to computer systems we’d normally use to communicate.

“That meant picking up the phones, texting and a lot of face-to-face communication. There was a tremendous effort among all staff to get the word out.

“From there we also put contingencies in place, including paper-based systems in out-of-hours to ensure all the patients who were coming in were seen by the professionals they had to be seen by. And they were.”

Paul worked late into Friday evening, and was back to lend support throughout Sunday and into Monday morning.

In between he ran the line during Spartans’ victory over Gretna 2008 in the semi-final of the Lowland League Cup.

Paul said: “Someone asked me if I was feeling tired given the extended shift on Friday, the game and back into work on the Sunday, but there was a real team spirit and focus to get on with the job.

“To draw a parallel with a feisty football fixture, of which I’ve officiated more than a few, you can never be distracted despite feeling like being at the eye of the storm.

“That sense of focus, despite the events unravelling around us, was clear throughout the weekend.”