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Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
AN explosive dossier prepared by some disgruntled referees paints a graphic picture of rampant purging and the promotion of relatives and associates, including sons and daughters, onto the elite ZIFA panel. It also claims there is rampant violation of such basic guidelines like that match officials should, at least, serve two seasons in a class before elevation.
The dossier, delivered to The Herald yesterday, suggests the country’s refereeing fraternity is in turmoil, gripped by an iron-fisted leadership, and fear has been instilled among the match officials.
A number of referees have been axed in questionable circumstances.
Others, said to have links to the new leaders of the ZIFA Referees Committee, either through their places of work, relationships, including sons and daughters, or whose parents or relatives used to have close working relations with those now in charge of this important branch of the domestic game, have been promoted.
There are also claims that while the new ZIFA Referees Committee leadership have been claiming they have a policy, to try and bring in fresh blood into the ranks of the match officials, many of those being ushered in are actually older than those being pushed out.
Crucially, claims the dossier, the incoming referees have, in the past, terribly failed to execute their duties.
A number of referees, claims the dossier, who were viewed as having been close to the old ZIFA Referees Committee, under Gladmore Muzambi, are being targeted.
They are either being frustrated by the new brooms in charge or have already been pushed out, in questionable circumstances, and are no longer part of the group of elite match officials.
One referee, according to the dossier, was ordered to change from being an assistant referee to a centre referee, on the eve of a course held at Hillside Teachers College in Bulawayo from March 1 to March 3 this year, because she was told a window had opened for her to be elevated onto the FIFA panel of referees.
The referees claim they paid $150 each for that course.
Critically, say those who drafted the dossier, the same referee appears to be benefiting from working for the same organisation as one of the new leaders of the ZIFA Referees Committee and, according to them, she is only benefiting from association, rather than her professional attributes, in the refereeing field.
The other issues raised by the dossier are that:
A match commissioner on the ZIFA panel, who works with one of the new leaders of the ZIFA Referees Committee, pushed for his son, whose name we have deliberately withheld, who was officiating in Division Two matches just last season, to be short-circuited onto the ZIFA panel of referees.
A son of a former FIFA referee who was pushed onto the ZIFA panel of referees four years ago, thanks to the influence of his father but was so poor, in terms of performing his role as a referee in top-flight matches he withdrew halfway into the season, has now bounced back and been included on the elite panel of referees.
Provincial leaders on the ZIFA Referees Committee, claims the dossier, have also been parcelling out positions for their provincial counterparts with a female referee who was handling matches in the Northern Region Division One League for only one season, now having been pushed onto the elite panel because of her father’s influence.
Those who prepared the dossier claim that even though referees who were handling, for example, Division Two matches, have to spend, at least, two seasons in such terrain, things have been changed by the new ZIFA Referees Committee leadership, with many individuals being fast-tracked into promotion after just one season because of their close links to the leaders.
One of those who is now leading the referees committee, and has one of the three most influential roles given he is the key figure in the appointment of the referees for the competitive matches played on the domestic scene every weekend, has no record of having even officiated a Division Two match.
Things have become so bad that some Premiership teams, in the provinces, even went to the extent of lobbying their provincial leaders in the new ZIFA Referees Committee to ensure more referees from their provinces were pushed onto the panel that handles top-flight matches because they wanted match officials who sympathised with their interests.
“For a referee to move from one class/level to the next, he/she should have been active in the lower level for, at least, two years,’’ reads the dossier.
“Most of the new referees promoted to the panel have one year, or less, in Division One and, more so, there are better candidates who were overlooked by the committee.
“The new committee did not have a criteria of (ranking) the referees, however, they had their people, whom they wanted on the panel and they dropped those they thought were aligned to the previous committee led by Muzambi G.
“Surely, how can they come into office and start by (ranking) people whom they have not seen?
“Referees were told that there was going to be massive changes to the panel as there is a new management.’’