No person’s blood is worth being spilled at match venues before relevant changes could be reflected in the domestic league. Weekly matches are marred by violence with the culprits (hoodlums, urchins, etc) made to look like spirits due to inadequate security. Referees are beaten to a pulp regularly because the league venues don’t have close circuit televisions to track the beasts. When a referee is killed, we will constitute panels to find out how it happened, who did it, why and how? Innocent souls will be arrested while the roughnecks will be walking the streets, free as air, with instructions from their principals not be seen around any stadium. Of course, the noise over the dastardly act won’t last long; it will be buried with the victim whose family will be left to bear the burden of losing their loved one.
Nothing seems to be new because these same characters run the competition yearly. Those who run the domestic game have a penchant for signing MOUs. They enjoy listening to themselves. Those with dissenting views don’t know what it takes to run the game. But this writer won’t give up until the right personnel is put in place. Rather than secure an official television station for the competition to help curb violence and carnage, the organisers watched in awe as the previous league television station stopped the contract.
A proactive league board would have accepted what the previous television sponsor offered and secured an arrangement where others could either show the games live or record them to be shown later. Sadly, some of these battered referees don’t record their ordeal in their match reports, except such scenes happen in parts of the country where the media presence can ANDoverwhelm the influence of desperate club managers, owners, and, sometimes, sports commissioners.
Must a referee be killed before we know that league venues here are death traps? Each week, strange stories of how match referees were maltreated and the culprits left to walk free litter the sports pages of national newspapers.
The centre referee who refused to continue the match involving Sunshine and Nasarawa United did the right thing. He returned the next morning to complete the game having secured adequate security from the police. These beasts at league venues harass match officials from the blast of the whistle. Referees should be given the power to call off a game. The snag is that they won’t have video evidence the back their decision.
The social media has been feasting on the video showing the fan who assaulted the referees during last weekend’s game between Katsina United and Kwara United in Katsina. Kwara United won the game, but the referees were beaten groggy. Even pictures of the man being prosecuted don’t compliment the stories of mod action resulting in the referees’ maltreatment. One person can’t injure three referees so badly. Clearly, a fall guy has been caught and his countenance in the video clips showed, especially with the way he walked out of the courtroom as if he knew he would soon be released. No remorse. Never heard of a one-man mob attack.
I won’t be surprised if the referees don’t get justice. The so-called culprit would just deny the allegation since he wasn’t caught on camera. He would easily get a lawyer to bail him and the case would ease off faster than ice cream kept under the scorching sun. Sadly, the referees are left in pain arising from bruises inflicted on them by irate fans. Unfortunately, fans are banned from attending matches as part of the Covid-19 regulations. Yet, referees are either molested or beaten to a pulp. referees are now endangered species at match venues. What a pity.
The first thing that stadia, where games are played, need urgently are effective CCTVs which can’t destroyed to cover up malpractices. Besides, any stadium that is slated to host games must build special exit gates that will make it absolutely impossible to access the referees before, during and after matches. Any harm inflicted on match referees will translate to 10
points deduction from the offender’s total. Such a defaulting club should never be allowed to play in that venue for one year.
One wonders what the organisers show to prospecting firms willing to do business with them? Would it not have been better to show them recorded programmes of the league to appreciate what they stand to gain in a partnership? Will firms be excited to associate their brands with the game when the benefits of such unions are not documented? I’m sure the organisers dare not show games where referees are battered. They also won’t show videos of crowd violence with fans running through teargas.
No fan will dare beat up a referee or cause a breach of public peace, when he knows that the game is live on television and he could easily be spotted by the law enforcement agencies.
Match officials will be empowered to interpret the rules of the game when they know that their safety is guaranteed. They also won’t want to misbehave.
We don’t have to wait until a soul is lost before we institute probe panels with robust terms of reference. Such medicine after death mechanism won’t’ resurrect the dead nor would it heal the pains of the family of the dead person. Dead men don’t talk. We need to task the league organisers to prosecute the club chairmen in the matches where referees were brutalised, no matter how little. Those who inflicted the injuries on the referees are no spirits. Club chairmen must be made to face the wrath of the law for dereliction of duty. After all, it is the clubs that bring the referees to the stadium. And it is their prerogative to take them back unhurt.
Club chairmen are culpable in this new trend of beating referees since the law forbids fans from watching matches. Fans’ angst against the referees arose from their dissatisfaction with the way they handled the particular game in question. So, club chairmen must tell us how they gained entrance into the stadium. Club chairmen must tell us the security arrangement made to curtail such excesses by irate fans.
Most of the reports of carnage from the venues have played down the functions of the match commissioners, independent assessors and, others whose duties include ensuring that all the basics of hosting games are adhered to. How did the games begin without the match commissioners knowing what to do before matters got worse? We need to know the efforts the match commissioners of problematic games made towards getting the police to provide adequate security for the referees before, during, and after the games. After, the match commissioners and referees ought to be driven into the stadium behind police escorts to show the hoodlums what to expect if they misbehaved.
No report has shown us match commissioners soaked in their pool of blood like the referees. Is it that they fled the scene to protect their lives? If no, how come they were not attacked? Referees would continue to be molested except the league organisers stop the clubs from paying match officials’ entitlements and indemnities. League organisers should today begin the process of getting the state police commands in areas where games are played to always send their best men to venues. Match officials should as matter of urgency make sure that visit the police stations to register their presence in such towns and seek adequate protection as law-abiding citizens. The police are our friends and should ensure the safety of everyone.
It would quite remarkable keeping videos of club chairmen even sports commissioners alighting from Black Maria in the company of a retinue of Correction Centre officials and moving towards the courtroom to face the tenets of the law. Not until this kind of measure is adopted would people learn to do their jobs. Club chairmen and indeed the state sports commissioners would appreciate the fact that referees are human beings, not animals ready for slaughter.
The domestic league is an apology, beginning with the sharp practices around the grounds before, during, and after matches. Nothing to stimulate the interests of the spectators to sit patiently at the stands. The essence of organizing league matches isn’t for both teams to benefit from the gates takings, but to allow Nigerians to watch the country’s future representatives at CAF inter-club competitions. The matches ensure that the owners of the clubs (mostly state governments) get the facilities ready for the players to battle for honours. But with visionless organisers, anything goes, even if it means playing games with empty terraces.
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