Safa referees in leadership crisis

Safa referees in leadership crisis

The South African Football Association’s (Safa) refereeing department is in a crisis. And with only four months before the end of the 2022/2023 season, they are yet to appoint a National Referees Committee (NRC).

The structure runs the refereeing department in the country and appoints the relevant sub-committees where critical decisions on refereeing matters are made.  

SABC Sport has learnt the non-appointment of the NRC has crippled refereeing operations at Safa, with some pointing out that the poor match officiating standards in the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) top division could be linked to this lack of leadership. 

Two key structures, the Safa referees review committee and the referees' technical committee, which are usually appointed and operate under the NRC, are alleged to be in operation and taking critical decisions, without a legitimate NRC. 

Since June 2022, when the elections took place and all standing committees were dissolved, Safa have operated without an NRC. Three months later, the new standings committees were appointed, except for the NRC, and the Fifa regulations governing the appointment of the NRC were difficult for Safa's leadership.

In September 2020, Fifa introduced new regulations on the appointment of the NRC. It states that the referees' committee shall be composed of only former match officials (preferably having operated at the top level of their respective domestic competition), with a chairman, a deputy chairman and an adequate number of other members.  

The rules go further to say, the deputy chairman and other members of the referees' committee shall be appointed by the president of the member association on the proposal of the chairman of the referees' committee. Safa Chief Executive, Advocate Tebogo Motlanthe has the latest on these appointments.  

“In principle, we have agreed that we need to have a certain number of ex-elite referees in the panel, the chairperson being someone from that. But we have agreed that because it’s a process, we need to have 50-50 of people who were there and people who are former elite referees. 

“Then gradually you will then have 100% former elite referees,” said Motlanthe. 

The last chairperson of the Safa NRC was the current Vice-President Anastasia Tsichlas and there has not been a successor. SABC Sport had previously reported that former Safa and Fifa referee Jerome Damon, who currently serves on the Caf Referees committee, was earmarked for the chairperson position with Tsichlas as his deputy. But when will the committee be 100% ex-referees? 

“Policy comes in, the NEC—when one becomes the chairperson of the NRC, we need to sit with him and ask when are you looking at having an NRC made up of 100% former elite referees. 

“I know that this process just needs to be finalized in the next NEC meeting and then we say to you, this is the referees' committee, this is the chairperson and the deputy,” updated Motlanthe. 

Motlanthe, however, did not want to confirm nor deny that Damon could be the next chairperson of the NRC. 

“I’ve not engaged anyone on that including Jerome. There are many former referees on that list including Khulasande Qongqo, Jerome, and Enoch Molefe but if your wish is to have Jerome as the chairperson, I can’t go there,” said Motlanthe. 

SABC Sport maintains, on the draft list of standing committees that we have seen, Damon was the chairperson and Tsichlas the deputy. 

Meanwhile, SABC Sport has been led to believe the review committee could be in action already as referee Tshidiso Maruping has not officiated since the incident of a penalty during Golden Arrows’ 2-1 win over SuperSport United. In that game, Maruping punished Siyabonga Nhlapo of United for handling the ball inside the box.  

He also officiated the game between Royal AM and TS Galaxy at the beginning of the year, where he failed to award a penalty to the latter.