Monday, September 25, 2023

Why referees saw red

Local referees have expressed concerns about whether the Botswana Football Association (BFA) really cares about their welfare.

According to the referees, some words uttered by one senior BFA National Executive Committee (NEC) member have left them feeling dejected and not appreciated by the BFA.

The referees’ concerns are said to have been triggered by utterances of the said BFA NEC member during a meeting to solve the impasse between the referees and BFA on the eve of the commencement of the 2016/17 season.

The meeting was convened for the referees and the BFA to find solutions to a stand-off between the two parties over referees’ unpaid allowances. It is alleged that during the meeting, the said BFA NEC member told referees that the association “is doing them a favour by paying them allowances for their services”.

Following the said meeting, referees demanded that the Botswana Football Association (BFA) pay them their outstanding allowances before the new season could start.

However, with the BFA failing to pay, the referees failed to turn up for games and a number of matches were abandoned

While the stand-off between the referees and the Botswana Football Association (BFA) “is now over” and referees are back to duty, the “after taste” of the confrontation is still ‘lingering in the mouths of referees.’

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some of the referees said the last meeting between them and the association, just before the league commenced, left them wondering if they were “really needed” or even appreciated.

 “What transpired during that made us rethink about our importance in the local football set-up. As we were arguing about our payments, one senior BFA NEC member bluntly informed us that the association was doing us a favour by paying us. This took us by surprise as we had never expected to hear such words coming from a senior BFA official while the negotiations were still ongoing,” one referee explained.

According to the referees, the same BFA NEC member also categorically informed them that as the new regime, they were not responsible for the debts, as they had been incurred by the past office.

“This angered us because the same person was a member of the recent past executive committee. We would have considered going to officiate without our pay that weekend but the ‘lack of empathy’ shown by the BFA NEC member just made us refuse to go and officiate,” the referees explained.

The referees added that this approach only steeled them to demand their allowances before they could blow the whistle.

“It was at this time that the same BFA NEC member started approaching us individually and asking us whether we would go and officiate. What irked us about this approach was that this NEC member would just ask, ‘are you refusing to go and officiate?’ and expect a yes or no answer from you. It was at this point that some referees started leaving the meeting room as they felt this line of approach was meant to intimidate us,” the referees explained.

 “The whole approach by the BFA made us feel unwanted and unappreciated. We sacrifice to go and officiate, leaving our families behind because we love this sport. The least the association could have done was to listen and find a common ground, not to try and coerce us,” the referee said.

An attempt to get comments from the BFA hit a blank.


Read this week's paper