The Sierra Leone Premier League after six weeks and nine games have had a lot of violence and other irregularities to deal with. Matches have been marred by physical assaults and maternal invectives, to the point that both teams and referees have decided to boycott the tournament until all the issues are fixed.
The Sierra Leone National Football Referees Organization issued a press release on January 20th, announcing that they were immediately put on hold the officiating of all matches of FC Kallon’s male and female sides. That same day, four match officials did not show up for a match between Freetown City FC and FC Kallon. This was in response to allegations made by the club’s owner Mohamed Kallon that a referee had told him that he would never win a match he (the referee) officiates, even if Kallon has a PhD in coaching.
Clubs like Mountain Slifa have also announced that they are boycotting all their Premier League matches until a referees status committee is formed to adjudicate issues of professional misconduct. The club’s chairperson Benjamin Gordon alleged that referees have been attempting to influence the outcome of matches.
The chairman of Mighty Blackpool, Rodney Michael, who has a wealth of experience in football, including one-time chairperson of the Sierra Leone Premier League Board, believes that watching or involving in any role in the Premier League at this point is not safe. Mr. Michael said while club officials have been blaming referees, and referees blaming club officials, while security forces blame fans, he believes that everyone should collectively take the blame for the current shakeup state of the league.
He said further that key factors of this are the little or no investment in referee capacity building, and the way fans support their teams which is pretty much a do-or-die affair.
The referee’s organization head of media, Alhaji Abdul Rahman Sanusi, denies the allegations of bribery and every other allegation that has been levied against them. Mr. Sanusi said that there have been new rules which a lot of sportspersons are unfamiliar with. He said that there is also a provision for teams to request sessions with referees geared to familiarization of the rules, but he said only Anti-Drugs Strikers have been making use of the opportunity.
Responding to all of these, the President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, Thomas Daddy Brima, said that they condemn all forms of violence, describing the situation as ugly. Mr. Brima said the referees have not been helping the situation. He said contrary to Rodney Michaels’s claim, they gave an amount of money to the referee’s organization for them to run a refresher course.
Mr. Brima said they have summoned the referees to a meeting slated for January 25, 2023, and with the club owners slated for the next day, to discuss everyone’s contribution to reinstituting sanity in the tournament.