Amid growing concerns over lamentable â€˜officiationâ€™, it has established that a few days before games some referees and club officials engage in irregular contacts that have elements of match-fixing.
Some officials confirmed about the practice while the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) has since instituted investigations on suspicious contacts between certain referees and officials. The officials and referees use third parties.
Apparently, one of the referees mistakenly sent a Sulom official a text message reading tili pa game yanu [I am in charge of your forthcoming game], thinking the message was sent to a club official whose game the referee was to officiate.
Reluctance by the referees committee to release names of those allocated games on a particular weekend, is believed to be contributing to the reported malpractice.
During the week, Sulom general secretary Williams Banda said they are, so far, treating the reports of the irregular contacts as mere rumours.
“We tried to request for openness, but they say security of individual referees will not be guaranteed, so we have established some mechanisms. It is a network which requires proper investigation, so we are almost getting there,” said Banda.
The fresh investigations come months after Sulom pursued a match-fixing allegation involving Silver Strikers and then Escom United defender Chipiliro Jose, who escaped punishment. Several of the Bankersâ€™ officials were suspended over the matter.
Two of five officials confirmed suspicious behaviour by some referees. Relegated Super League side Zomba United general secretary Wanangwa Jere said his club never experienced direct contacts from referees seeking favours.
“But I remember before our game at Civo Stadium being approached by an unknown man saying he was sent by a referee on duty to ask for money in order to handle a game in our favour. We did not report the matter to the authorities as we did not want to believe the referee could do that,” said Jere.
Big Bullets general secretary Higger Mkandawire, too, said he was unaware of either officials or referees engaging in inappropriate behaviour before games.
“If that happens, then it could involve team officials who are friends with referees. I do not know what became of Sulomâ€™s proposal that names of referees must be released in advance. Most of the times, I only learn about the identity of referees when the game starts,” said Mkandawire.
Former Civo United general secretary Owen Malijani, speaking in his personal capacity, said he had heard reports of such suspicious communication.
“This usually involves clubs that are run by individuals with readily available cash to dish out. It happens with either referees approaching officials or vice-versa. I am certain this happens as in one of the recent games, I overhead some people yelling at a referee ubweze K15 000 yathu,” explained Malijani.
He blaimed the veil of secrecy on identity of match officials for the malpractice. Elsewhere, including Fifa and CAF announce, at least a week before a game, identities of referees and match commissioners are availed at least a week before a game.
Blantyre United administrator Lawson Nakoma said his club has never been contacted by referees, but claimed that his team has always been given a raw deal, especially when playing away.
But National Referees Committee (NRC) general secretary Chris Kalichero on Thursday said his office has never received a complaint over the irregular conduct of referees, saying there was no way they would fail to act if such incidents happened.
“We do not reveal names to avoid referees being bribed. It has never happened, but this is a cautionary measure. There is a unique challenge that in Malawi teams can sometimes reject referees. Bear in mind that issues of secret contacts over bribes cannot be restricted to referees. It can also happen to you [sports reporters],” said Kalichero.