Contrary to people’s expectations, The Nation has established that it is not by choice that football club officials and players who insult referees in media interviews get away with it. The truth of the matter is that in the country’s football statutes, there is no check for such misconduct as is the case elsewhere in the world.
But it is believed that some cases of violence have emanated from irresponsible speeches of club officials and players during media interviews before or after games.
“Here we are not protected by the Football Association of Malawi statutes. We had many incidents where referees have been castigated on radios, TV and even in the newspapers.
“Former Tigers coach Leo Mpulula once called Lilongwe referees as mbuzi zenizeni (goats) live on radio and nothing happened to him,” said National Referees Committee (NRC) general secretary Chris Kalichero on Thursday.
He lamented that sometimes the referees are insulted for making right decisions.
“Refereeing is a crucial task in football all over the world, but in Malawi, it is undermined by supporters, players and club officials. A football match cannot take place without a referee, but it can be played without supporters. This is a policy issue FAM needs to act on,” said Kalichero.
FAM acknowledged failing to protect referees.
“It is not about referees only, even the FAM president Walter Nyamilandu himself and his general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda have been insulted by club officials, a thing which cannot happen in English FA or any other football association,” said James Mwenda who chairs FAM’s referees sub-committee.
He claimed that 70 percent of the violence that happens at football matches in the country is incited by club officials who insult referees.
But Mwenda said unlike other FAs, FAM’s constitution does not have a clause on misconduct which makes it impossible for the association to take to task officials who act irresponsibly towards match officials.
“It is not like we cannot enforce the rules, the problem is that we do not have the rules in our constitution to check against that. As a result, we do not have a basis for punishing offenders.
“It is something we have to look into. What I have observed is that most club officials are not conversant with rules of the game and there is need for civic education. We need to hold clinics for both administrators and referees before revising the constitution so that we can include clauses to check such behaviour,” said Mwenda.
He said club officials need to know that the proper channel to lodge complaints is through the match commissioner or through Sulom and FAM depending on the competition.
One of the country’s respected coaches, Alex Masanjala, has urged FAM to protect referees as other football associations do.
“Football should be standardised. The image of referees in the country is so bad that it is no longer inspiring to young people. Referees should be respected and encouraged to do their job without interference,” said Masanjala.
The former Civo and Flames coach said most coaches in the country are not conversant with the ever-changing rules of football and that usually they get emotional and point fingers at referees not necessarily because the referee has failed, but because their team is losing.
Masanjala also blamed FAM for not taking the initiative to update coaches and club officials when officiating rules change.
“Each time there is a change in rules of the game, Fifa will send information and material to FAM for distribution to the clubs, but these materials often just gather dust at FAM. I am aware of this because I was once in the system,” said Masanjala.
Like FAM, he also observed that club officials and coaches indeed incite violence at matches by blaming the referees publicly instead of following laid-down procedures.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was fined £8 000 (K5.7 million) for irresponsible comments he made after his team’s game against Manchester City on December 26 2013. Rodgers’ conduct of questioning the integrity of the match referee was described as improper and not in the best interests of the game.
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has been fined the £8 000 standard penalty for a similar conduct during their game against Newcastle United. These are a few examples of how strict other FAs are in safeguarding the reputation of the game.