At least 25 of the 36 Southern Region Football Association (SRFA) Premier and Division One teams have given their mother body a three-day ultimatum to settle referees’ arrears amounting to about K130 000 ($229).
The teams yesterday converged at BAT Ground in Blantyre, where they agreed that if the SRFA fails to meet the deadline, they will seek Football Association of Malawi’s (FAM) intervention and opt for a plan B, which is to seek sponsorship on their own.
However, SRFA general secretary George Pagaja said they will not bow down to pressure as they will settle the bills at their own pace and they are already in the process of clearing the debt.
According to Zomba United owner and chairperson of the SRFA advisory committee Noel Gobede, the league’s failure to pay the qualified referees and hire unskilled officiating personnel during last weekend’s games shows the body has lost direction and teams need to put in place survival measures.
“We wonder why the referees are not paid their dues when each of the competing teams paid a fee of K140 000 to the SRFA. The money we paid was enough to pay the referees for the entire season but we do not know why they were paid for only two weeks. Now, where is the rest of the money?” Gobede wondered.
However, Pagaja described the meeting as a podium full of football politics. He also quashed Gobede’s claims that SRFA officials were invited to the meeting but they decided to ignore it.
“First, I am hearing it from you that the teams had such a meeting. Secondly, the meeting seems to have a different agenda not connected to our competition. As a league we are already in the process of sorting out issues with the referees and everything is going on smoothly and we wonder why that should be their concern,” Pagaja said.
He added that their decision to hire unqualified officials for last week’s games was an ad hoc arrangement after Southern Region referees boycotted the games at the eleventh hour.
The latest development comes after it transpired that there is no sponsorship contract between prospective financiers Nsejjere Sports and Casual Wear and the SRFA for the second and third tier leagues.