Out-of-shape referees get yellow card

MASERU — Lesotho’s match officials have been ordered to shape up or ship out. Starting next season the country’s referees will be graded according to their performance. This was revealed by Baba Malephane, chairman of the Referees Executive Committee, on Monday.

The resolution was taken at a comprehensive referees’ summit held at Bambatha on Sunday. The meeting was attended by all the country’s top match officials.

“We are going to grade our referees. Starting next season we will be grading them,” Malephane told the Lesotho Times.

It means match officials will be judged on their on-field performance as well as general fitness. Tests will be held at least once a month to assess referees’ fitness.

Malephane said the meeting’s resolutions were largely in response to the abysmal results Lesotho’s refs achieved at a FIFA High Level Course physical examination last month, where 20 out of 30 match officials failed.

“We have to act quickly,” Malephane said, “The results weren’t disastrous but improvement is needed. We want our senior national referees to officiate at FIFA level. We also need to have referees at a national level (Premier League) and those at the lower level.”

Lesotho’s drive to get refs up to date is also a needed one. The country’s referees’ term on the FIFA elite list ends in September. A FIFA referee course will be held where FIFA will choose referees. There are 10 slots available.

“We are having a drive where we want to get referees up to international standards. We also have a problem that some of our referees don’t have a good command of English,” Malephane said, “English is the language of football and our referees need to know the language in order to pass tests.”

Malephane added: “The numbers (of referees) are very low, that’s why we are training more referees.”

Even considering their low pay Lesotho’s referees have not covered themselves in glory. Lesotho’s much maligned match officials had similarly shocking results at another FIFA referee course in January

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