Zimbabwean soccer referees at it again

TAWANDA KAROMBO (Harare) – Zimbabwean soccer referees have once again come under the spotlight for the wrong reasons following complaints and concerns over “poor officiating standards” that have caused rebellion by some soccer fans.

Premier league coaches have in recent weeks complained of bad refereeing standards but surprisingly, said officials this week, formal complaint has been lodged yet.

It also appears that the PSL is toothless when it comes to disciplining erring match officials. The league also does not have the muscle to enforce good refereeing standards.

Kenny Ndebele, the PSL’s chief executive officer told Shout-Africa early this week that there was nothing that the league could do as it does not have power over the match officials. “Referees are not within our jurisdiction as they fall under the referees association,” said Ndebele.

He however conceded that concerns were being raised about the poor refereeing standards and that this trend was worrying. “We have over the past few weeks received unofficial complaints regarding the refereeing standards” he said.

But there is nothing that the PSL can do without official complaints being lodged with the league’s board of governors and management committee. It is however worrying that while some referees have made some errors when officiating in premier league matches, the fate of the blundering referees lies with the Zimbabwe Referees Committee (ZRC).

“If there is to be any sanctions, this has to come through from the referees body or Zifa,” added Ndebele. ZRC – the referees governing and representative body – is a semi autonomous body that is affiliated to the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), just like the PSL.

This means that the PSL can “only relay the complaints” in the event that an official complaint against referees’ standards is lodged.

ZRC chairman and Zifa co-vice President, Kenny Marange, was not amused by the complaints against the match officials. “Such complaints have always been there,” he said.

Marange instead criticized premiership clubs and players for not being knowledgeable enough about the governing laws of football. He said he was “worried about the little knowledge that players and officials”
have about the game’s laws.

The right procedure to handle match officiating complaints is to raise complaints through the proper channels. Official and written complaints or reports, Marange – a top referee in his own right – said, should be lodged with the Zimbabwe Referees Committee and copied to the PSL and Zifa.

Football analysts said this week that the criticism of refereeing standards would harm the confidence that prospective sponsors have over the PSL as a brand. “This noise about referees is quite disturbing because in the long run, people are going to say we do not want to be associated with football as our name might be brought into disrepute,” said Tendai Matenga, a football analyst.

Club officials at teams such as Kiglon, Lengthens, Eagles and Bantu Rovers have complained against refereeing decisions that they view as favorable to the traditional soccer giants such as Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United.

two weeks ago, Caps United escaped with a point in the bag after scoring a controversial 88th minute penalty in a league match against Kiglon. Earlier on, the referee of the day, Samuel Matemera, had denied Kiglon a clear cut penalty.

On Wednesday last week, another premiership match between Highlanders and FC Victoria had to be called off after only 38 minutes. Referee Nkosana Nduna walked away without blowing to end the match after a six minute stoppage.

The actions by the referees have also resulted in some fans venting their anger through throwing missiles onto the pitch, a situation that has resulted in a handful of matches ending prematurely.

Some members of the Sports Writers Association of Zimbabwe (SWAZ) are already calling for the association’s members to pass a vote of no confidence in the country’s refereeing standards by not naming the referee of the year award later this year.