KAMPALA- Personal development advisors in your life may tell you that the only person standing in the way of your happiness is you. But when you’re the small fry in the company whose opinions get ignored by your boss, it really doesn’t matter what you do.
On Tuesday, Daily Monitor exclusively reported how referees in the StarTimes funded Uganda Premier League (UPL) have gone unpaid since August 2019. But yesterday, one of the referees who officiates top flight games told us that was just a tip of the iceberg.
The referee, who asked not named for fear of reprisal, said most referees are actually unhappy with their bosses, on top of not being respected let alone being paid. He said that they feel miserable, citing reasons like lack of respect and poor communication.
“When you are called on phone for an assignment all they expect afterwards is the match report, nothing else,” he said of the horror they go through to get to match venues, some of which require travelling a day earlier.
At the mercy of team owners
The responsibilities of the men in black involve being impartial but it has emerged that referees are compromised on several fronts. Our source confirmed that in order to make ends meet, some referees will honour advances from team managers who need a particular match the most.
“I am surprised people can talk of stopping match-fixing when referees are not paid,” he said.
“If a team badly needs a result and they find a desperate referee, compromises have to be struck. What would you do? Some of us with day jobs end up turning down some appointments as an option,” he added.
Uganda Football Referees Association chairman (UFRA), also a Fufa executive member, Ronnie Kalema told this paper on Monday that “officials and their matches up to match-day 15 and this you can get from me we shall pay it as soon as possible.” Yet the picture is uglier.
According to this source, who has also had assignments in the Fufa Big League, the Uganda Cup and the Fufa Women Elite League, some payments outstanding since 2017.
“All money for officiating in the UPL last season was paid. But money for officiating the Uganda Cup, which is now sponsored by Stanbic Bank and the women league has not been paid to us since 2017”.
Fufa receives 10 per cent of the money meant for the league broadcast, which is about $20,000 (Shs73m) to referees from the Uganda Premier League Secretariat. It emerged only the third quarter is yet to be released as the first two quarters of July-September and October-December 2020 have been disbursed.
It is understood that the referees’ body is partly to blame. “You have to take care of your business. That’s the normal way. If you dare speak about your grievances they strip you off the list or keep frustrating you by making you a fourth official,” he notes.
He adds that those with Fifa badges remain unbothered as international appointments can help them recoup their money. But this is an elite club. Only 17 referees and their assistants stand to benefit from that front.
The source adds that they have never negotiated their pay although the structure indicates that upcountry assignments are estimated at Shs150,000 and those games immediately after the city are Shs100,000 and those in Kampala Shs70,000. This empty promise keeps the referees in action even when they actually struggle to maintain their integrity.
We could not independently verify, but this source explained that people like David Oula, Frank Jjingo, Ali Kadalu, Frank Jjingo and Jude Karemeera were rendered redundant for making demands about their pay.
Paying the penalty
There have been reported incidents of poor officiating with several referees getting punishment for their involvement. It is unclear whether this rising spate of bad officiating is directly associated with poor pay.
Last year, Ronald Kirangwa and his assistants Samuel Kakembo and Lydia Nantabo received separate punishments for a controversial Vipers’ goal against Express. Emmanuel Kiweewa received the latest punishment, a five-year ban for reportedly soliciting a bribe of Shs1m to influence the result of a semi-final match between Uganda Martyrs University and St. Lawrence.
The most controversial though was Robert Donney, who led to the abandonment of a Uganda Cup final in 2015. “Many referees get away with it. Sometimes it is because teams know they will have their turn too,” our source explained.
Joseph Mutyaba, was the only team official to have received a fine for reportedly trying to offer a bribe to the referees while at Masavu yet when Ben Misagga was summoned over match fixing allegations last year, nothing of substance, was reported.
The referees’ body, UFRA is considered to be simply a compliant body. To be a member, one has to make a Shs40,000, which was increased this year from Shs30,000. Yet this referee does not feel its value. “They only want us to be yes men. They don’t advocate for our rights,” he said. He reckons that it would be better if Fufa had an independent person instead of the UFRA head as Kalema heads both.
“It becomes really hard to appeal when the same person heads both committees,” he notes citing the ban of Richard Kimbowa, for alleged match-fixing but still serves a ‘ban’ since 2018 even after UFRA set him off the hook.
“The only solution is to quit. You cannot be in that foolery for long especially when y
ou have an alternative job.”