With the kick-off of the new TNM Super League season just around the corner, the National Referees Committee (NRC) and a seasoned referee have expressed the need for either FAM or Sulom to organise a workshop on laws of the game for clubsâ€™ technical staff.
NRC general secretary Chris Kalichelo and Fifa assistant referee Moffat Champiti attributed the increase in complaints and protests against officiation last season to ignorance of the laws of the game on the part of most clubsâ€™ technical officials.
But on the other hand, clubs have said referees fail to take a firm line due to factors ranging from incompetence, favouritism to lack of modern gadgets.
Kalichelo and Champiti also noted that officials of clubs, in particular coaches, often use officiation as a scapegoat when they are on the losing side.
Last season, there were just a few games in which technical staff did not point a finger against officiation.
In some cases, coaches even reprimanded match officials, accusing them of either incompetence or favouritism.
Azam Tigers coach Leo Mpulula was once summoned for a disciplinary hearing by the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) for using abusive language against Fransisco Scova after a Super League game against Big Bullets.
Said Kalichelo: “There are times when referees make mistakes because they are only human, but in most cases, it boils down to ignorance of the laws of the game on the part of some club officials who protest anyhow; and by so doing, they influence their fans as well.
“We asked Sulom to seriously consider organising a joint workshop for referees and clubsâ€™ technical officials on the laws of the game ahead of the new season so that they can have basic knowledge. But we have not yet heard anything from Sulom.”
Kalichelo claimed that local referees are not so inferior as they are portrayed, claiming they are recognised by international bodies such as Fifa and CAF.
He cited Champiti, Kalyoto Ngosi, Anthony Raphael and Dennis Ngulube as some of the top-notch referees who have delivered on the international stage.
Kalichelo also said in preparation for the next season, the referees body is conducting refresher courses on the laws of the game as well as fitness tests through its regional committees.
Champiti shared Kalicheloâ€™s views: “The problem is with our club officials. Most of them do not understand the laws of the game. They just protest anyhow. They should be allowed to attend seminars and workshops to understand the basics on the laws of the game.”
Added Champiti: “The other thing is that 95 percent of the complaints come from a team that has lost and it is difficult to ascertain whether they are genuine or just out of mere frustration.”
But Civo United team manager Dave Chirwa noted that the problem comes in when a referee wants to appease another team for an earlier mistake.
“It is true, they [referees] are human and they are bound to make mistakes. But what I have noted in most of the games is that when a referee makes a mistake, they make it up in form of appeasement, thereby spoiling the situation further.
“For instance, when a referee awards a penalty and he or she is criticised for that by the other team, they make sure that they appease the other team by awarding them a penalty too.
“So, while there could be favouritism, the issue of competence also comes in because the referee fails to take a firm line,” said Chirwa.
He also noted that the other problem comes in due to lack of modern gadgets.
“The referee is supposed to communicate with his assistants when the game is on, but unlike in other countries, here the communication is poor because we do not have such gadgets and they end up contradicting each other,” observed Chirwa.
However, he concurred with Kalichelo and Champiti that there is need for authorities to arrange workshops for club officials on the laws of the game.
However, Azam Tigers technical director Robin Alufandika said apart from all the factors raised, the issue of incompetence and favouritism is still a big problem on the local scene.
“Without mentioning names, the performance of some referees leaves a lot to be desired and one is tempted to wonder if they are qualified enough,” he said.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda said all the issues that have been raised will be taken into consideration.
“For your information, plans are under way to have a joint workshop for club technical officials and referees on the laws of the game. However, what has delayed the process are some logistics such as the cost-implications and where it should be held,” said Banda.
However, Banda said technical staff, in particular coaches, are supposed to be conversant with the laws because in the beginnerâ€™s course for coaches, the topic is included.
He also said there is need to have a code of conduct, adding that that is why they bridge the gap by organising pre-match meetings.
“It is unfortunate that some clubs do not take these meetings seriously and send anyone to attend,” he said.