By Lamin Cham
I must say I was shocked to learn from first hand during the recent crises over referees allowances that Gambian referees are the least remunerated in the entire sub-region with a referee earning just D250 per match.
Don’t blame me for my ignorance of this fact for so long a time because simply, unlike the other actors in football, referees don’t talk about the game or profession they earn their living from. Like judges in a judicial set up they are only there to make rulings and not comment on them before, during or after it. In the same vein, they epitomize the highest bastion of integrity in the game; from them much is expected and sometimes as it is in our case here at Nawettans and league matches, the very sanctity of the game rests on the shoulders of the referees.
Also in this our society referees are the first and common scapegoat for any losing coach, player or supporter to insult and malign, or worst physically attack.
Nowhere in the world can any game be played without referees; yet here in The Gambia we give them chicken change as if it is a gift rather than a well-deserved payment. Think of this, each Fifa subvention, FAP or whatever name is in fashion now for the millions that come from Zurich to each national association including our own GFF, caters for the development of the game including refereeing.
Yes there are training programmes conducted for referees but what is the point in spending millions on training someone to the best level and condemn him or her to starvation wages or allowances while other less important actors in the same field reap fortunes for just turning up at a meeting? Granted every where in the world referee matters are less discussed but our country is notorious for paying the poorest wages to referees and if it has to take this one day Super Nawettan strike to change this, then so be it.
If an executive member of the GFF can get thousands of dalasis for sitting at a meeting a day to discuss football, what is wrong with giving a decent pay to the man whose service is far more indispensable to that very football they are discussing?
In fact by the way, the Super Nawettan which is an annual one-off fast programme in the GFF calendar is more or less a contract, well funded by the sponsors and generating substantial amounts of money to sustain itself.
Therefore referees remunerations and incentives under this package should be a special arrangement which should be understandably better than the pittance they get during the traditional GFF league programmes. The refs are right in demanding twice their normal pay. The Super Nawettan is a well-funded contract and the referees must not be used to organize well-attended matches during which they will be insulted from both directions only for the zones to take their shares and the GFF to make the rest a donation to some zone or zones as was the case a few years ago.
Finally I hope the rumpus from the refs strike will not be used as yard stick to punish the leading voices behind it. No one encourages rebellion but if a rebel has a good cause and uses civil means to attain it, he should not be targeted for his actions.