‘Man in the Middle’ casts shadow over premier league

19 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
‘Man in the Middle’ casts shadow over premier league WAR ZONE . . . An empty bottle thrown from the Vietnam Stand narrowly missed far side assistant referee Kudzanai Hiya, after he flagged offside a Dynamos effort late in the second half of their league match against Herentals at Rufaro Stadium last weekend. — Picture: Libertino

The Sunday Mail

. . . 11 referees suspended in 11 match days, equivalent to one every week

Lawrence Moyo

Head Zimpapers Sports Hub

ELEVEN referees have been suspended for poor performance after just 11 weeks into the 2024 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, casting a shadow on the calibre of those entrusted with handling the matches.

That is an average of one suspended referee per week!

According to the authorities, the suspensions range from six weeks.

The names have been withheld as the authorities would like the referees to rehabilitate and return to action without suffering irreparable damage to their dignity.

Two matches have already been abandoned so far following late, controversial goal decisions.

FC Platinum were handed a 3-0 victory over CAPS United following crowd trouble at Mandava Stadium when referee Lloyd Mapanje ruled out an effort by Ralph Kawondera in the 87th minute after assistant referee Mncedisi Maphosa signalled offside.

The hosts were leading 1-0 at that stage.

CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe’s post-match comments in which he called the referee’s decision “stupid” resulted in a US$400 fine.

Premiership newcomers Chegutu Pirates’ game against Dynamos was abandoned in added time after they disputed a goal awarded to the Harare giants.

The outcome of last Tuesday’s hearing has not yet been made public.

There are other matches that have had crowd trouble triggered by what players, coaches and supporters believed to be bad officiating.

The most recent was the 1-1 draw between Dynamos and bogey side Herentals at Rufaro Stadium last Sunday.

All sorts of missiles, including empty bottles, were thrown at the far side assistant referee, Kudzanai Hiya, who had flagged Dynamos defender Donald Dzvinyai offside as he headed home what would have been a late winner.

The same assistant referee had flagged Dreamer Liye offside after 27 minutes, denying Herentals what would have been a first-half lead as ZTN footage showed the player had been onside.

At Sakubva Stadium, newcomers Bikita Minerals were not happy with the officiating as they lost to Manica Diamonds last Sunday.

This means there has been a trend of at least two complaints against match officiating every match day this season.

Some football fans seem convinced the poor officiating seen so far this season is a result of match fixing by bribe-taking referees, whose official remuneration is regarded as a pittance.

The ZIFA Referees Committee, however, does not believe its members are taking bribes.

In an exclusive interview last week, the committee’s chairperson, Norman Matemera, conceded that the refereeing so far had been below standard, adding that they were working on addressing the problem.

“I can say the level has not been up to the standard that we have trained them to be. So far, we have suspended 11 referees for poor performance,” he said.

“It is our duty as a committee to protect our referees from being victimised when they get into the field of play. Because of the current hostile environment towards referees, we will not be disclosing their names for the sake of their dignity.

“We want them to come back stronger and better and not completely embarrass and destroy them because they have made mistakes.”

The suspensions are based on the recommendations of match commissioners, while there is no need for disciplinary hearings on cases of poor performance.

“On suspensions, we read commissioners’ reports and act on what they would have written. There is a mark scale that tells us the performance of a referee. We also check on video footage of matches for us to sanction referees.

“For poor performance, there is no disciplinary hearing.”

Given the rate of suspensions and length of the punishment, there are concerns that there might not be enough referees soon.

“We have a pool of 77 referees available. The only challenge is that we cannot fixture referees from all over the country due to logistical and financial challenges,” said Matemera. He believes there is great room for improvement, although he blamed the behaviour of players and coaches for worsening the situation.

“There are some who have mastered what we have been teaching in terms of judgement of fouls, decision-making, positioning and movement, as well as match management. There is great room for improvement,” said Matemera.

“Yes, our referees have been making mistakes, some of which have costed teams. However, the situation has been magnified out of proportion by the behaviour of players and coaches, who fail to recognise that referees are human beings and also make mistakes.

“There are matches where referees have done exceptionally well beyond expectation and we applaud them for their good work.”

Matemera said they had been working hard to help improve the standard of officiating, adding that they did not condone violent conduct, amid accusations referees were letting players get away without punishment for unsporting behaviour.

“Since the beginning of the year, we have held two courses for our elite referees and have emphasised the need for them to quickly grasp the modern football concepts.

“However, this is still work in progress and referees are making mistakes, which I believe they will learn from,” he said. “We have played our part as a committee to improve the standard of officiating and the ball is in the referees’ court to interpret and apply what we have taught them.

“I would not say that referees are too lenient on violent conduct. It depends on how the referee has seen an incident and interpreted it. There is no room for leniency on violent conduct. Our message to referees is that they must deal with violent conduct and rid it from our football.”

A section of the football fraternity believes match officials have been compromised by the “little money” they earn from handling Premiership matches, exposing them to corruption.

Matemera could not be drawn into revealing the figures, saying that was confidential information, but Zimpapers Sports Hub has been made to understand that four match officials who handle PSL matches share between US$950 and US$1 100 depending on the transport allowances.

That means an average of US$237,50 per official, although the actual figures will be determined by the roles played during the match, meaning some earn less than what an equal share amounts to.

What fuels the suspicion of corruption is that match officials get paid by the home teams at the end of games, while in most cases away teams are the ones that complain against referees.

“We have zero tolerance to match fixing. We have always preached this message and whoever is found wanting, disciplinary action will be taken,” said Matemera.

“We have always encouraged referees to recognise, resist and report any match fixing. There are channels through which the referees can report match fixing to FIFA directly.

“Referees are paid by the home team and I believe the remuneration is fair considering the economic environment. We will not disclose the remuneration as it is confidential.”

Looking ahead, Matemera believes stakeholders should keep abreast with laws governing football.

“The way forward is we will continue to hold seminars for our referees so that they improve the quality of refereeing in the country. I would also like to encourage our coaches to be abreast with the current laws so that we are on the same wavelength in understanding and interpreting the laws,” he said.

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