Gzira United FC president: 'Some referees are completely incompetent – or worse’

Sharlon Pace, president of the club, says it's time football referees in Malta are made accountable for their actions

'We have been the victim of too many bad refereeing decisions for them to be genuine mistakes' said president of Gzira United FC
'We have been the victim of too many bad refereeing decisions for them to be genuine mistakes' said president of Gzira United FC

The Malta Football Association (MFA) needs to stop protecting referees, especially since some of them are frequently demonstrating they are incapable – or worse – a premier club president told MaltaToday.

Sharlon Pace, president of Gzira United FC, said it was high time football referees in Malta are made publicly accountable for their actions and decisions.

“Time after time, I am seeing refereeing decisions against my team that make it obvious this cannot simply be a case of a referee having a bad day,” he said. “There are too many coincidences for me not to believe there is something else afoot.”

Pace said he had been complaining of the matter for nearly two years, but all his entreaties and complaints have fallen on deaf ears, as the MFA remains adamant not to change the status quo that it has set in place.

The MFA says that it does, in fact, censure referees when necessary, but insists on doing so in private without even making its decisions known afterwards.

So clubs and their owners have no way of knowing whether any disciplinary action is, in fact, being meted out to referees, especially since the same faces keep popping up at games week after week.

“I can only speak about what I see happening to my team, where we have been the victim of too many bad refereeing decisions for them to all be genuine mistakes or a coincidence,” Pace said. “It is obvious to me that some referees are either incompetent or else they are involved in something worse.”

He insists he has no proof except for the track record of refereeing decisions.

“If I had proof of collusion or anything else, you can rest asssured I will be the first to go to the authorities, and by that, I do not mean the MFA,” he said.

Pace believes that small teams that make it to the top tier of local football against all odds are treated like his team have so far.

Only if they manage to weather the storm of unfavourable and questionable decisions are they accepted as “a big team”.

“I do not make these claims lightly, nor I am doing this only for the sake of my club, although that has to be my focus,” Pace said. “My interest is making sure that this game I love so much is a fair and playing on a level playing field by all involved.”

He told MaltaToday that it was big pity that there were no longer any TV programmes that aired at the end of the weekend and which used to analyse and dissect any and all questionable refereeing decisions, as they did with players’ behaviour on the pitch.

“Unfortunately there are no such programmes any more and all decision-making is now taken behind closed doors by the MFA without the clubs, or the paying public having any form of recourse,” he said.

Pace explained how in one game against Balzan FC two weekends ago, his team ended on the wrong end of numerous yellow cards with not one major decision taken in their favour.

“At one point, one of their players was clearly seen punching one of our players in the head and the referee, who was only a few metres away, merely called the play to a stop and signalled a free-kick, without sanctioning the offending players in any manner,” he said. “And yet, our player who was punched ended up hospitalised suffering from a concussion, while the other team’s player, who was unsanctioned for his behaviour, went on to score two goals in the match.”

That referee’s decision, Pace said, was one perfect example of how referees – and their bad judgement calls – were influencing the outcome of games.

“I know that saying these things will come back to haunt Gzira United,” he told MaltaToday. “But these things need to be told and I am prepared for what will be thrown our way.”

Questions on the issue sent to the MFA went unanswered by the time we went to print.