PSL ref crisis
REFEREEING in South African soccer is in crisis after all but one of the country's top match officials failed their pre-season fitness tests.
Daniel Bennett - who is earmarked for potential World Cup action in two years' time - was the only member of the elite panel of officials who was able to pass Sunday's physical tests at the start of the annual pre-season workshop.
Others, like Jerome Damon, Lwandile Mfiki, Victor Hlungwani, Buyile Gqubule and Charl Theron all failed the tests, plunging the domestic game into chaos.
A total of 14 of the 25 referees who underwent the test failed and, by rights, are now ineligible to blow the whistle in Premier Soccer League or the National First Division matches for the next six months.
"It was carnage on the track," said an official who was present at the Fifa-conducted tests, which preceded two days of lectures for a total of 80 referees and linesmen.
The majority of the referees who were successful in the running tests at the Boksburg stadium are too young and inexperienced, say officials.
Now, both the South African Football Association, who oversee the refereeing structures, and the PSL are in a quandary.
There are two options open to them:
They can bend the rules and allow the tests to taken again, so as to get more experienced referees onto the panel before the start of the new season.
This, however, would go against a strict policy that has seen officials like Damon, Theron, Yugesh Anjith and Matthew Dyer sit out large stretches of the season.
Stick to the rules and promote junior officials to take charge of PSL matches, even though they will be bound to make more mistakes than usual in high-pressure PSL competitions, and so raise the ire of the clubs.
The crisis also raises questions over the efficiency of current refereeing structures, and, more importantly, the long delay in the implementation of professional referees.
Matters have not been improved due to an impasse between the national football association and the PSL.
The PSL is prepared to put up all the money needed for the professionalisation programme and has already bought a property to house the top referees.
However, Safa has refused to cede control and is backed by Fifa.
Ideally, Safa should pay for the programme, but the free-spending organisation, top-heavy with committee members and salaried employees, is cash-strapped.