Mark Gleeson

PSL refs in shabby shape

2011-08-22 09:44
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson
Refereeing is so much more intense and under scrutiny than ever before, because of the stark television spotlight.

Officials who make mistakes are instantly exposed, oftentimes by technology that slows down the incidents to a fraction of the speed they would have been seen it with the naked eye. It is almost unfair to judge them in this way, but modern machinery means we can … and do.

You could feel some compassion for their plight, but it is also worth remembering top referees and their assistants these days are well rewarded.

Most of the officials on the Premier Soccer League panel these days make a living from the fees they earn and those elite refs who get onto the international panel enjoy sumptuous travel combined with handsome foreign currency allowances.

They are thoroughly tested, made to pass exacting fitness and law exams and have moved their trade from the recreational activity it was some two decades ago to a top sporting level.

South Africa’s league has benefited over the years from much improved officiating although there are surely many fans, aggrieved by controversial decisions and particular individuals, who might feel differently.

But to be fair, the advancement has been marked from the days of fat buffoons with a whistle wreaking weekly havoc on our professional pitches. And not forgetting all the cheating and corruption too.

It is essential for the credibility of the game to keep up officiating standards, but attempts to bring in professional refereeing remains stymied by a power struggle between the South African Football Association and the PSL.

SAFA control refereeing and want to keep it so. But they have no money. The PSL have the money to pay salaries and set up structures but obviously want the control if they are to spend the cash.

Talk of professional refs has been going on for years now with little progress.

And the signs of this dereliction are beginning to set in. This season is but a month old and already we can see how amateur, part-time refs are beginning to fall too far behind the pace of the professional game.

There have been a lot of poor decisions in just two rounds of cup games and two rounds of league games already, basic fundamentals that have not been followed. The refs are looking sloppy, perhaps too full of themselves after all their recent advances.

And the rookies that have been brought in have been immediately shown to be of such a poor standard as to prove the gulf between those officiating the top flight and the rest of the league is far too gaping a hole.

Like players, refs need to be ready to get the new season off to a running start. That is why teams average seven to eight weeks of pre-season training.

But that has not been the case with officials. The country’s top two referees flunked their recent fitness test because they had been revving it up on holiday in the off-season. By right, Jerome Damon and Daniel Bennett should have to sit out the first half of the season until the next local tests but get another chance because the league desperately needs their seniority, acumen and experience.

It is time SAFA and the PSL set aside their political cat fighting and work together on this urgent matter. It is to the benefit of our game, the one that the administrators are supposed to serve, not bicker over.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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