Super League of Malawi (Sulom) has not paid referees officiation fees for over four months, a situation some referees say is prone to bribery temptations.
As of Wednesday, 174 games have been played in the league. A set of five match officials per match—centre referee, two assistants, fourth official and match assessor—gets K84 000 in total.
A centre referee and two assistants get K20 000 each while the fourth official and match assessor pocket K12 000 apiece.
Our calculations show that Sulom owes referees about K12 952 000 from the beginning of the second round.
There are 40 elite referees who officiate the top-flight league.
Some referees confided in Weekend Nation that the situation is affecting their livelihood, as they solely depend on the allowances to make ends meet.
In an interview, a Blantyre-based referee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Since the second round kicked off, we have not received anything. The development puts us in an awkward situation because with nothing in your pockets, it is difficult to control yourself from the temptation of receiving bribes from club officials who sometimes make advances.
“We have often taken up the issue [of our dues] with our superiors, unfortunately their response is always that the matter is being looked into.”
A Southern Region Referees Committee (SRRC) said they have been pressing for their dues from Sulom through their national body, but they had been told to wait.
“We last got the officiation fees July end. The majority of us depend on the same money for a living and the situation is bad,” he said.
The referee said Sulom is only giving them transport money amounting to K35 000 for a set of five match officials when travelling to Mulanje from Blantyre to officiate matches.
“This money is for us to hire a vehicle and cater for lunch, but it is not enough, a situation commuter minibuses,” he said. that forces us to board
Another official from Northern Region Referees Committee (NRRC) said the development has forced some referees to officiate social games because they get paid immediately after the match.
“It is an unfortunate situation. We can easily be tempted to fix matches since there is nothing for us after officiating Super League games,” he added.
National Football Referees Association (NFRA) general secretary Chris Kalichero confirmed that Sulom has not released officiation fees for sometime.
“Indeed, they have not paid the referees for quite a while, but out of trust we have not been pushing them, hoping that they would sort us out. But looking at the situation, we feel it is getting out of hand and we need to sit down with them to map the way forward,” he said.
Kalichero also said his body does not allow referees to use public transport, “but they are left with no option when there is no money to hire a vehicle”.
Three weeks ago, referees lost an electronic communication gadget in a minibus when they were travelling from Mulanje where they officiated a match.
Sulom vice-general secretary Zachariah Nyirenda confirmed that the flagship league governing body has not paid referees since the end of first round.
He attributed the situation to clubs’ failure to honour affiliation fees from which the better chunk of officiation fees come from.
“Nevertheless, we are looking into the issue. We cannot promise them when exactly [they will be paid], but we will sort them out,” said Nyirenda.
Blue Eagles chairperson Alexander Ngwala, whose side is in contention for the title, expressed worry with the situation and feels that it has affected the performance of referees.
“Now it makes sense, you and I have witnessed some dubious penalties being awarded, these referees don’t want to disappoint a team that pays them,” he said.
“But this is sad, Sulom should make an effort to pay them so that there is no room for match-fixing,” he added.
Football analyst George Chiusiwa described this as sad and asked Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to intervene.
“The league is at a boiling stage, teams are fighting for the championship while others are fighting against relegation. We should have paid referees so that there is no room for match fixing,” he said.
Chiusiwa further said Sulom could have avoided such a scenario.
“They should have known it better through proper planning. Why are they failing to pay referees? This is another crucial stakeholder in our game,” he said.