Malaysian referees not good enough

In light of the recent sending off of Selangor’s Paulo Rangel, Tony Mariadass examines the cores of refereeing woes in Malaysia.

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Not a week goes by in the M-League without the referees being the centre of controversies or team coaches and officials taking them to task for their inefficiency in handling of matches.

So, who is to be blamed for the current standard of refereeing in the country? Immediately, fingers will be pointed to the FAM, who are the governors of the game in Malaysia.

While the FAM have to bear part of the blame, the real problems lies with the very ones who are complaining – the State FAs. Where do our national referees come from?  The states of course. So who nurtures them? It is the State FAs again.

With a majority of the State FAs not even running decent leagues, where are their referees going to get experience? Their only resort will be at the national level – the FAM Cup and President’s Cup. The standard of both these leagues is still not at its best, so it really does not provide much challenge for the match officials. And whatever little experience and exposure gained from these two leagues certainly do not prepare them for the M-League.

Paulo Rangel was unwilling to leave the pitch following his red card

But with dearth of grassroots referees, in all possibility these match officials earn their stripes faster than in normal circumstances and graduate to the M-League. The FAM Referees’ Committee, sooner or later, have to start using these “young graduates” and the real quality shows up when they find it hard to cope and make the right decisions under challenging situations.

The FAM do have options of bringing in referees from the Southeast Asia region, but firstly it will not go down well for the national body seeking help from their neighbours. Secondly, the cost factor has to be considered and thirdly, there is no guarantee that referees from the neighbouring countries will solve the poor quality of refereeing in the M-League.

Thus, the M-League is left with a few experienced referees who are overused, while the newer referees struggle to meet the demands of the game. We can conclude that the referees are trying their best under the circumstances and will probably go on make more mistakes and learn from them, while the players and teams have to pay the price.

Then, of course, there have been speculations that some match officials have been involved in determining results of matches, as they are bought by bookies. It is no secret that bookies have been targeting match officials lately as it is an easier way to determine outcome of matches than having to approach a few players. There have already been cases of Malaysian referees being hauled up and charged for attempted match fixing and that only underlines the fact that corrupt match officials exist. To what extent it has crept into Malaysian football is anyone’s guess.

Another area that sees some of the match officials err in their decisions is when they have preconceived notions of certain players in the team, which results in them making harsh decisions. Referees should take each match as they come and judge every player on their merit, but there have been cases where referees discuss players among themselves and mark them for special attention.

Another reason why match officials sometime underperform is because they are not well rested before matches. More often than not match officials car pool and travel to their destinations to officiate matches on the matchday and some even travel back the same night. They also struggle to travel a day earlier because of problems getting leave from their day jobs.

The FAM and the State FAs have to pay attention to these problems, but at the current rate, it looks like the refereeing woes in the M-League is not going to improve anytime soon and it is a problem the coaches and players have to live with it.

(Photo Credit: Ahmad Ridhuan @