Grace Chingoma-Senior Sports Reporter
THE ZIFA Referees Committee is working on reducing the number of referees that will handle matches in the Premier Soccer League in order to attract quality and consistent officials.
The committee’s vice-chairman, Ruzive Ruzive, believes that the current panel of 68 members is too large to get enough game-time to officiate matches which in turn compromises the quality of officiating.
Ruzive deputises ZIFA executive committee Barbara Chikosi in the five-member committee that was appointed by ZIFA last month. The other members are veterans Wilfred Mukuna, Sabelo Sibindi and Makonese Masakadza.
The match officials have been under the spotlight every match day due to their questionable handling of some of the games.
And the former referee believes that with support from all the key stakeholders, they would be able to come up with a lean competitive panel.
Speaking during a ZTN television programme recently, Ruzive attributed some of the errors that are made by the match officials to a lack of game-time to handle matches.
“We have got a very big panel of referees so some of these decisions that happen, probably are because of rust. They take too long before they actually referee a match. Sometimes they just do one game in a month. That is not healthy for football, when it comes to playing football, you can never have consistent performances if you don’t play week in and week out. If you are always on the bench or don’t even play, you can’t perform, you can’t up your game,” said Ruzive.
“So what you need is a leaner panel, a leaner panel that can be able to do matches say three matches plus every month. That way we should be able to come up with a positive result.
“So all these outcries mostly are because of lack of game-time, so we need to trim, and to trim the panel, we cannot just thumb suck, to say so and so are going to remain and these people are going down,” he said.
Ruzive said they will use criteria to reduce the number of referees.
“We give them games, we are giving them games. They are actually proving themselves, and some of them will actually disapprove of themselves but there are obviously several criteria that we are going to use.
“The first one probably will be looking at age. Who is beyond 45? But if they have got quality, we might request to have them have one more season so that they can nurture the young ones. “But if it just about age and we have got enough quality below the age of 45, we would rather use that criterion first,” he said.
Ruzive added that some of the referees were fast-tracked into the elite panel yet they were supposed to earn their stripes before their promotion.
“Second criteria is to look at how probably the referees got into the premier league. Right now we have got referees who were promoted end of 2019, there was Covid in 2020 and 2021, and there was never football played. Then we have got Division One games. Division One matches have just started this year and all of a sudden before we even get to the half of the season, we have got referees who are already in the Premier League.
“How does that happen? It means things are not working in a proper manner. There is no justification for such a promotion. So that is another criterion. We need to assess them first in Division One matches, and we send match commissioners to look at their performances, if they are able for sure, the few that would be able should come back and join others in the Premier League,” Ruzive said.
Lastly, the Referees Committee is also going to use fitness tests to help in assessing competent referees.
The last fitness test was held in September last year when football was resuming coming from a year-and-a-half absence.
Ruzive believes they have a number of referees who are not fit but are handling matches. However, their fitness can only be determined by scientific fitness tests and this will also help them in dropping some of the referees that are not handling top-flight matches well due to lack of fitness.
The Premier Soccer League and other stakeholders have expressed concerns about the standard of match officiating. The league fathers said they have since forwarded all the complaints they have received from the clubs to ZIFA.
However, the PSL have urged clubs to adhere to the league’s rules and regulations during matches and not remonstrate against the match officials.