The Southern Region Football League (SRFL) has described the move by Southern Region referees to boycott officiation of the league as political.
Referees from the region are boycotting SRFL games on the basis that the league is failing to pay them outstanding officiation fees amounting to K400 000 (about $1 000).
The SRFL is sponsored by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) acting president Arthur Peter Mutharika.
And while confirming that the league indeed owes the referees outstanding dues, SRFL general secretary George Pagaja attributed it to politics.
“We indeed owe them about K400 000, but the normal practice has been that we pay them their outstanding dues ahead of the new season.
“We believe that the dirty game of politics has come into play behind the scenes, considering that the league is sponsored by a politician.
“Otherwise, we fail to understand why the referees are adamant even when we sought FAM’s intervention that we would pay them their dues in due course. In any case, why should they boycott the games when there are just a few games to wind up the season?” wondered Pagaja.
He added: “As a league, we are not involved in politics which we believe has come into fray. Our duty is just to manage and run the league professionally.”
However, Southern Region Referees Committee (SRRC) general secretary Fransisco Scova dismissed the league’s claims.
“The boycott has nothing to do with politics and if the SRFL GS is saying that, then it is very unfortunate because he knows we have been pushing for our dues for sometime now.
“The initial arrangement was that they were supposed to be paying us every month, but they failed to fulfil their promise and now our members from the district level have been on our necks. There was even a time when they suspected that we had connived with the management of the league,” he said.
He said the referees are ready to resume officiating SRFL games once payment is duly made.
“They owe us about K500 000 (about $1 250) and if we finish the league, what assurance will we have that they will pay us the outstanding balance?” asked Scova.
The boycott is likely to affect FAM’s drive to introduce a harmonised calendar as the completion of the league will be delayed.