The days of football referees allegedly taking bribes from teams to fix matches as a way of supplementing their meagre income might have come to an end.
This follows a sponsorship agreement between the South African Football Association (Safa) and OUTsurance with the aim of improving match officiating in South African football which is under tremendous pressure from allegations of match-fixing.
Under the current Safa arrangements, it is clubs that pay match appearance fees to the referees, which in professional leagues may amount to R500 or more per match per team and the three officiating referees have to share that amount.
That amount decreases per league status and in the grassroots LFAs (local football associations), that amount is even lower as teams contribute about R100 each towards the appearance fees of the referees and it is this meagre remuneration of the referees that opened the doors for alleged corrupt practices and match-fixing.
“We are certain that this practice of match-fixing and other corrupt activities within football allegedly perpetrated by the referees will come to an end,” said Ria Ledwaba, vice-president of Safa, at the announcement of the sponsorship partnership at Safa House.
“It is for this reason that we want to professionalise the refereeing as well and ensure that they are also paid enough so they don’t resort to cheating in order to augment their match fees.”
Ledwaba, the former owner of now-defunct Ria Stars FC, said the deal was worth R50 million over five years. This money will not just be used for branded apparel but to adequately remunerate referees and also to take care of the development aspect of match officiating, including the advancement of more women in the beautiful game.
The sponsorship covers Absa Premiership, National First Division, ABC Motsepe League, SAB League and Sasol Women’s League matches and all cup games.
OUTsurance CEO, Danie Matthee added to Ledwaba’s comments on the low remuneration of referees by saying it was the company’s vision to always assist and capacitate communities and organisations where there was a need.
“We saw the need to elevate the standard of refereeing in the country to eliminate the elements of match-fixing and corruption in the game,” he said.