Johannesburg – You may have been shocked this week to learn there’s a referees review committee in the domestic game after all. On Monday, this committee, under the SA Football Association, released what I can only deem an historic statement in which they lauded referee Lwandile Mfiki for his handling of the Golden Arrows-Kaizer Chiefs match a few weeks ago.
“The review committee comprising chairman Bruce Mphela and members Steve Goddard, Frans Boshilo and Moses Hleza viewed the match extensively and concluded that the referee had handled (it) appropriately in a hostile environment. (The committee) confirms that the decision to dismiss Reneilwe Letsholonyane in that match, for serious foul play, was correct.”
This was surprising as it came three weeks after the match, but it held a huge irrelevance as Letsholonyane had already served a mandatory two-match ban. The statement did not end there. “Mfiki should also have sent off Lucky Baloyi of Chiefs, as his foul was a clear dismissal offence instead of a plain caution. The match officials must be complimented on their calm approach to all incidents throughout this match.”
In a season when we’ve had so many refereeing blunders, it’s puzzling that a review committee would rear its head only to heap praise on an official. Just last week, Buyile Gqubule courted controversy by ruling that Moroka Swallows should re-take a penalty twice, which was eventually saved, in their game against Chiefs.
While this matter has been debated vigorously, and TV replays have shown conclusively that Gqubule got it horribly wrong, we are yet to hear the Safa review committee’s stance on this case, or others which attracted similar interest.
The committee can, for instance, also tell us if they agree with Gqubule’s decision to award a penalty to African Warriors in their Nedbank Cup quarter-final against United FC when the infringement had clearly happened outside the penalty area. It’s been a while since we’ve heard this committee utter a word when their man is in the wrong. Rarely has this committee ever reversed an unjust sending off.
The last time the committee was in the news was two years ago when, under public pressure following several incidents of refereeing incompetence, it slapped a handful of match officials with fines and one-match bans. It has now emerged from the wilderness to defend their referee at a time when they have been silent on many indiscretions.
It is ridiculous for them to come out with a statement that favours a referee in a match that happened three weeks ago. What took them so long to realise that Mfiki was “correct”? Had they found he made the wrong call, how would it help as Letsholonyane had already served a ban?
A situation where the committee comments selectively on incidents is unsustainable. What is required now that they have finally announced their existence is for them to hold referees accountable at all times.
As this column has mentioned before, errant referees like Gqubule continue to be rewarded with even bigger games a week after making a glaring mistake, with no consequences or accountability whatsoever.
As much as we know referees are the easiest scapegoat to disguise teams’ incompetence, the committee should have the gumption to point out flaws as well. They should also seek to be more expeditious than they were in the Letsholonyane case. But more pertinently, they need to be vocal and not only be heard once a year.
*Follow Matshe on Twitter @Nkareng