Together with the Finance Department, the Referees Unit was the most understaffed at SAFA Head Office given the critical day-to-day functions of both departments. This unit ran only with a National Referees Coordinator and a National Referees Development Officer and a part-time secretary.
The Referees Unit had several things in common with the Coaching Department. Both departments require expert football-related guidance – as distinct from the general-purpose skills needed in other areas of football administration. Both were without appropriate levels of administrative scrutiny and both departments’ work revolved around a development programme that churned out graduates without empirical assessment of the value of the course offerings. The referees development programme has offered development courses over many years. The result is a coterie of referees numbering over 5,000, some of whom may not have been re-tested for fitness since the training began in 1993.
Administratively, the National Referees Coordinator administered a small budget provided by Toyota Motor Corporation and ensured that enough courses were run around the country. Additionally, a few other functions (referee selection, discipline and inspection) were included in the overall functioning of the department whose core focus was the development programme, with a full programme of refresher courses offered on all levels. However, there was no set of broad strategic objectives that drove the activities of this department.
Yet, the department did relatively well during under the circumstances, given its meagre resources. It offered 10 referee development courses annually around the country and the entire Premier League and First Division panels were re-tested in a decentralised manner to ensure cost-effectiveness. The NSL/PSL panel was tested in eight centres around the country and strengthened its criteria for inclusion on the panel. For the first time, an updated test covering the Laws of the Game was administered. Most candidates passed the test. Those who did not pass were left off the panel until they took the test again and passed it.
Additionally, the department was mandated to establish and maintain a referees oversight and disciplinary system. This was done through a review and disciplinary committee structure to ensure quality performance of the referees. Cases are continually adjudicated and referees disciplined for wrong-doing. The system has also been strengthened with more capable hands.
Overall, the Referees Department needed a set of broad strategic objectives for the medium-to-long-term to provide appropriate context for its day-to-day functioning and to define measurable outcomes. We must endeavour to establish a method to improve the overall quality of our refereeing programme. The following broad objectives were therefore adopted by the department as a guideline for future performance.