Premier Division champions designate Evirom FC and their rivals Chikhwawa United have resolved to forfeit their remaining two matches due to the stand-off between the Mutharika Southern Region Football League (SRFL) and referees.
The Southern Region Referees Committee (SRRC) boycotted the league’s games last week, demanding unpaid dues in excess of K500 000 (about $1 250), thereby delaying the league’s conclusion. The wrangle also threatens the harmonised calendar.
Evirom coach Paul Kachingwe on Monday said they can afford to miss their dead-rubber away assignments against Thondwe United and Chikhwawa United. Chikhwawa are yet to play Liwonde and Evirom.
“It is difficult for us to concentrate on Super League preparations while also minding the Premier Division business. We have made this known to the league and their reply is that they will come back to us,” said Kachingwe.
Evirom, who sealed their championship with 84 points a fortnight ago, defeated Red Lions 1-0 on Sunday in a preparatory match for life in the Super League which is expected to kick off on April 27.
In a separate interview on Monday, Chikhwawa United chairperson Owen Chomanika said they would go on break as the prolonged season was eating “into our regular expenses. We do not know the consequences of us forfeiting the games but we will do that.”
Last week, SRFL general secretary George Pagaja was quoted as linking the boycott of the games by the referees to politics. Professor Peter Mutharika sponsors the SRFL to the tune of K5 million (about $12 500) per season.
SRRC general secretary Fransisco Scova has vowed to press on with the boycott. A set of referees is entitled to K3 600 (about $9) per game in the league whose teams come from Chikhwawa, Zomba, Blantyre, Machinga, Balaka and Mangochi.
“We feel irritated for the league to even link politics to this issue. It seems referees are not a priority when people are running football. People are quick to point fingers at referees when things go wrong,” said Scova.
But SRFL chairperson Trouble Kalua said they would seek the intervention of the chairperson of the National Referees Committee (NRC), Patrick Kapanga. Other regional leagues also sponsored by Mutharika wound up relatively peacefully.
“Our argument is that we always pay them and they should understand that we have a problem as most teams have not paid their affiliation fees. Contrary to what is being said, K3.3 million (about $8 250) from the sponsorship package caters for prizes and K1.7 million (about $4 250) is administration, which is not enough to run two divisions,” Kalua insisted.