Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
TO an ordinary football fan, referees are guided by rules and regulations which they must adhere to for the smooth flow of the game, but on many occasions, local games have been shrouded in controversy as a result of referees’ poor showing.
The incompetence of the referee might be because of sheer arrogance, simply not applying the laws of the game, allegiance or as a result of being bribed.
While there are many local cases where coaches have felt hard done by certain decisions by match officials, those cries are made even louder if the referee has some sort of attachment to one of the teams, especially teams funded and or owned by big companies.
A recent case in point involved Hwange and FC Platinum at the Colliery Stadium where Pure Platinum Play left the coal mining town feeling hard done by the match officials of the day. Two of them are long serving employees of Hwange Colliery Company, the principal sponsors of Chipangano.
While they might not have been any bias, deliberate or otherwise by the officials, it is that uncertainty and links with the principal sponsors which makes the issue contrary to the tenets of good ethical conduct.
Many decisions left to the discretion of a referee and his association might influence his decisions during a match.
“It’s not really bias but perceived bias,” noted one observer.
The Zimbabwe Referees’ Committee needs to look into this possible conflict of interest whenever it is making appointments so that the local game is not tainted by such perceptions. Another observer argued that Bulawayo-based referees have handled matches involving Bulawayo teams just as Harare-based referees blow the whistle for Harare-based teams.
However, this is rather different because, for instance, Bulawayo as a place does not own or sponsor those teams, unless it’s Bulawayo City FC in the Zifa Southern Region Division One. For a referee employed by BCC to avoid conflict of interest, he should not handle matches involving the team.
“Being employed by a team’s principal sponsors must not be a problem, referees simply have to be impartial and apply the laws of the game fairly,” reasoned a club administrator.
However, if that was the case, one would ask, why are international matches not handled by locals? They would simply apply the laws of the game.
But it’s not as easy as that; a Zimbabwean referee, handling a crucial World Cup qualifier that determines who qualifies for the tournament, when faced with a situation where he or she needs to use his or her discretion will surely be influenced by his or her allegiance to his or her country of origin.
Former Caps United left-back, Cephas Chimedza, who is now based in Belgium said a top referee in that country had to recuse himself because he was an employee at a bank that was also sponsoring Club Brugge.
“He cited conflict of interest as his reason,” said Chimedza.
In England, whose English Premier League (EPL) is religiously followed by most Zimbabweans, former referee Mark Clatternberg, while still serving, dropped his agent after discovering that a number of EPL players were also being represented by the same company.
That is the level of professionalism that is needed in Zimbabwe and the referees’ committee, headed by Bryton Malandule must enforce that.