National Football Referees Association (NRFA) has accused Sulom of underestimating the role of referees by failing to pay in full their dues for last season .
NRFA general secretary (GS) Chris Kalichelo said this after the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) issue a K3 million payment out of the outstanding K8.1 million, leaving the flagship league runners with a K5.1 million balance.
“They [Sulom] are taking us for granted. They are taking for a ride.
“I do not think they appreciate the crucial role that referees play in this game, otherwise we could not have been going for 10 months without getting paid.
“It is very frustrating to say the least because after every match, other stakeholders, including stewards and network people get paid and yet referees return home with empty pockets,” said Kalichelo in an interview yesterday.
He said thew K5.1 million translates to dues for 51 matches.
There are 40 elite referees who officiate Super League matches and a set of five match officials comprising centre referee, two assistant referees, a fourth official and match assessor, gets K84 000 per match.
“This is the first time that Sulom owes us that much after the end of the season. In the past it would be in the range of K2 million to K2.5 million and it is scary because we have a new season coming up and we are not sure how they are going to handle the current situation.
“In the past, they would give us K7 million upfront, but that is no longer the case,,” he said.
The NRFA GS suggested that reverting to the old system would be an ideal solution to the current situation.
Kalichelo also said they will not commit to officiate league matches for the 2020 season unless the current balance is cleared.
“There is this perception that some referees get bribes which I believe is not true, but under the current circumstances, I do not think anyone would blame referees if they would be tempted to do that because there is no motivation.
“They are going for over 10 months without getting their dues and that is affecting their livelihood as most of them solely depend on officiation fees to make ends meet,” he said.
However, Sulom president Tiya Somba Banda played down the issue, saying the referees will be sorted out.
“We have television and radio stations that are yet to honour broadcasting rights and, therefore, we should honour the balance by January end as per agreement with the broadcasters,” he said.
The Sulom boss also contradicted the NFRA GS on the balance saying it is K4.5 million and not K5.1 million.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina said referees are important stakeholders in the game who need to be handled with care.
“By withholding their dues, which are already on the lower side, and paying them in bits and pieces, is doing injustice to the match officials.
“If Sulom is failing to pay the referees now when the league has concluded, there is no hope of paying them until next season,” he said.
A fortnight ago, NRFA threatened not to release referees for the league’s title deciders unless Sulom paid them their outstanding dues.