National Football Referees Association (NFRA) has threatened to boycott Super League matches unless they are paid outstanding allowance arrears from the 2016 season.
According to NFRA general secretary Chris Kalichero, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) owes them at least K5 million, which the referees want to be paid in full before the top-flight league kicks off tomorrow.
He said they recently had a meeting with Sulom where they unanimously agreed not to officiate the games unless they were paid their dues in full, but surprisingly, Sulom acted contrary to their agreement after presenting them with a K4.5 million cheque that had a shortfall of K660 000—of which K240 000 is for main referees and K420 000 for match commissioners.
“We felt cheated taking into account the fact that this issue is a long overdue. Moreover, Sulom did not say anything as regards the remaining sum. Therefore, we decided to return the cheque and demand full payment. We will only officiate games once every penny is settled,” said Kalichero.
However, Sulom treasurer Tiya Somba-Banda claimed they only owe the referees K4.5 million as indicated on the cheque, which the country’s referees body sent back to the flag-ship league administrators on Wednesday.
He said the total bill for the NFRA last season was K24.5 million of which they were completing payment through the returned cheque, adding that the balance the referees are demanding is for seven matches involving the now-defunct Max Bullets, which was billed on Sulom but were not played and the referees never showed.
“It is very unfortunate to hear this from our distinguished men in uniform, whom we have been honouring their dues all these seasons without any hustle. Just yesterday, they returned the cheque to us claiming there is a balance. Is this about money or something else? We are now questioning their [NFRA] motives,” he said.
Meanwhile, Super League clubs have expressed concern over the tendency of Sulom and NFRA to start sorting out their differences at the eleventh hour, saying such developments can create chaos.
Nyasa Big Bullets general secretary Albert Chigoga said: “At present, clubs are busy travelling to fulfil their fixtures and it is disturbing to hear that referees might boycott the games. For example, we are now travelling to Mzuzu. Who will repay our bills if the referees boycott our games this weekend? It is not good to create such desperate situations.”
But soccer analyst George Kaudza-Masina said it is not fair for the referees to be denied what they worked for. He further said Sulom should negotiate with the referees amicably for the good of the game.
“This means Sulom has not been serious as their priorities seemed to be upside down. How can they owe the referees that much when the new season is about to start? Let them budget properly this season because referees are some of the most important stakeholders in football,” he said.
Sulom pays referees from gate collections since the TNM sponsorship does not cover the officials’ perks. n