As I watch the new approach by the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), which seems intent on imposing its will on the game’s landscape, reflections of a past era come right back, and I’m tempted to think that we are witnessing the birth of authoritarianism.
The GFF’s payback approach to referees Wayne Griffith, John Callender and Okeshi Croker, following their participation in a well-liked street competition, gives off a stench reminiscent of that which permeated the corridors of the world governing body FIFA for a number of years.
Speaking with Griffith, who has developed into one of the better Futsal referees and undisputedly one of the most experienced of the few we have in Guyana, he said that it appears as though the Guyana Football Referees Council (GFRC), under the guidance of GFF President Wayne Forde, has decided to debar them indefinitely from officiating in competitions in the absence of a hearing, thereby affecting their right to earn.
According to Griffith, it was Forde who told him, during an inquiry he made in connection with the trio’s non-selection to officiate in a tournament currently being played (albeit their experience and the paucity of Futsal qualified referees), that it was his decision to withdraw their services until further notice, because of their participation in the popular street competition.
Griffith said that upon hearing the reason why their services were not required, he asked whether or not the GFF had jurisdiction over the ‘Street-styled format’ and was told that the institution did not have such a mandate.
Widely regarded as two of the most experienced referees (Griffith and Callender) in the format, with hundreds of games under their respective belts, he further prodded Forde for any other basis that would have resulted in them being ignored, and according to him, he was told that because they had officiated in an unsanctioned tournament, they are being reprimanded for their actions.
Griffith is therefore questioning the motive for their punishment and is calling on the GRFC and the GFF to publicly state the real reason(s) for their actions as well.
The well-respected referee recounted that he had asked Forde for an official letter indicating why they were overlooked, but the President was reluctant to do so, advising that the aggrieved referees await a decision sometime in the future.
Griffith is contending that if the President feels that they had acted in contravention of any guideline, then the right thing to do is to officially notify them of their infraction(s) and to state the penalty associated with the infringement. Failure to do so can be interpreted as debarring them indefinitely and maybe without cause.
It must be noted also, the scramble to organise a Futsal course for referees – which is a welcomed development, but manifestly late, since the current Futsal tournament is being officiated by referees with little or no experience in the format, thereby running the risk of putting the event into disrepute.
There is need for such a course, but to completely ignore the input of senior practitioners, the likes of Griffith and Callender, smacks of revenge.
I’m one who usually exercises caution when expressing opinions on the ills of sports administrations for fear of sullying the image of the sport, but at the same time I am unwilling to shirk my responsibility to highlight high-handedness or apparent victimisation.
The President of the GFF, who, according to Griffith, shouldered the blame for the present situation, should do the honourable thing and reveal the real reason(s) for his actions.
It is also imperative that the media investigate the injustice being meted out to the three referees and publish their findings. It might help in stopping the evolution of repression within the corridors of the GFF.
The incumbent has made several decisions of recent for all concerned with the sport to be worried, because it seems a deviation from his election promises, which was to engage all stakeholders.
As I’ve mentioned in a few of my previous articles and letters, there is something about the office that alters the personalities of those involved in it.
As the legendary British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, who instigated the fall of many high-ranking FIFA officials in 2015 once said, “once upon a time, FIFA officials walked down the street with their FIFA blazer, the FIFA logo ‘I’m from FIFA. I’m important.”
Following the departure of disgraced top FIFA officials who disrespected him at every opportunity, he asked, “Who would do that now? Who would dare do that now? None of them!
It was Jennings who quoted the late Louis Heren’s advice to a young reporter to find out “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?”, and Lord Northcliffe’s “News is what somebody, somewhere, wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising.”
Griffith, Callender and Croker’s punishment should ignite a serious response, but sadly I’m not sure if there is the will to do so, since some of us have already invited the media masseurs into our club.
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