Updated | A nationwide football strike commences on Friday, referees say

From the BOV Premier championship all the way down to the lowest division, all football competitions will be temporarily gridlocked until a compromise is reached on referees' income

Maltese referees demand an increase in income, an issue that has been under scrutiny but with no distinct remedy for a long period of time
Maltese referees demand an increase in income, an issue that has been under scrutiny but with no distinct remedy for a long period of time

All Maltese football functions will temporarily cease from Friday.

Sister paper Illum reported that later this week, all Maltese football events will be gridlocked due to a nationwide referee strike.

This means that the BOV Premier championship, the First Division, the Second Division, the Third Division, the Youth FA, and all other football competitions will be temporarily interrupted.

Earlier this morning, the Malta Football Referees Association issued a directive so that referee members do not show up for matches. This, they said, was motivated by the plea that referees' incomes should be revised.

This issue has been in contention for several months now and no decision has yet been reached. In an interview with Illum, MFRA President Alexei Tabone had warned that referees would be taking drastic action on this basis.

"If there is no forthcoming response on the revision of the income for referees by next week, we will take action," he had said. He explained how certain referees have had their incomes increase by 30% in the past, with Premier referees seeing an increase of 100%.

Some years later, the Malta Football Association (MFA), under the management of Norman Darmanin Demajo, had rescinded the compensation of training for referees, that used to amount to €1,750 a year.

"Nine years ago, Premier referees were being paid more than they are today and, ironically, we used to say at the time that referees weren't been paid enough," Tabone said.

In a statement released earlier today, the MFRA said that it had issued a deadline for the revision of the fees dated January 2019 and February 2019, both of which had been ignored.

"Subsequently, the MFRA has issued a hard deadline dated 1 April. However, this deadline has been snubbed," the statement read.

The MFRA Committee has consulted with many of its members, including several referees forming part of the elite group as well as several referees from lower divisions.

"The strike will commence on Friday 5 April from 4pm onwards, where every affiliated referee with the MFRA is being instructed not to referee any "football appointments" issued by the MFA. This directive will remain in force until the MFRA issues a counter directive revoking this strike," an MFRA spokesperson said. 

The MFRA also said that the MFA had called an urgent meeting with the appointed mediators representing the MFRA and that there was a verbal compromise.

"If this is put in writing the MFRA will revisit this directive," the statement read.

The Malta Football Association reaction 

In a statement, the Malta FA said that at this time the association had not been officially informed of the strike action ordered by the MFRA other than through the media release issued by the same organisation.

"The Malta FA strongly disagrees with the position taken by the MFRA, more so in light of the on-going discussions with a group of match officials over the revision of match fees and other matters related to the overall conditions of match officials at all levels," the statement read.

The association said that the discussions had been positive so far, to the point, that the parties invovled had agreed in principle on all points following the latest in a series of meetings held on Tuesday evening.

Another meeting with march officials is scheduled for Thursday.

"In such matters, the Malta FA structures and procedures must be respected at all times." The Malta FA said that such agreements would be subject to the scrutiny and approval of the Executive Committee which is due to meet on 11 April.

"The Malta FA is taking this matter extremely seriously. While reminding all parties of their sporting and legal obligations, the Malta FA reserves the right to take action to safeguard not only the interests of the same Association and its clubs but also the integrity of the game."

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