Kenya: Controversy in NSL as Rich Clubs Pay Referees

22 January 2019

Financially stable teams in the National Super League (NSL) are paying referees to honour matches, Nation Sport understands.

This has been influenced by lack of payment for the whistle blowers, who've been given empty promises by their employer - the Football Kenya Federation (FKF).

Referees are thus giving undue advantage to the highest bidder leading to a number of complaints from participating teams.

Shabana, Kisumu All Stars and Bidco United are some of the teams that have been on the end of "fixed" matches.

Normally, the centre referee and match commissioner earn Sh4500 each, while the two assistant referees and fourth official each pocket Sh3500 on a single match day.

FKF, who are obliged to foot the bill, have not done so since half of last season to date.

"We've not been paid our money for 16 rounds of last season and nine rounds played so far this season," one of the referees, who sought anonymity due to fear of reprisal, told Nation Sport on Monday.

"If a team volunteers to pay my transport and accommodation to officiate their game, it's only fair that I pay back by ensuring they win because I know I won't be paid by FKF," another revealed.

When contacted, FKF media chief Barry Otieno confirmed that indeed referees are owed huge sums of money.

"We are working to settle the debts by end of this month because we've had challenges with the cash flow," said Otieno.

In February 2017, FKF penned an exclusive TV media rights agreement with Free-To-Air sports channel Bamba Sport to broadcast the NSL.

The three year deal, believed to be worth Sh10 million a year, was meant to offload referees' bills according to reliable sources at the federation.

On the contrary, referees officiating in the lower leagues are paid in cash on match day as their companions in the second tier huff and puff for 90 minutes without a penny at the end of the month.

Division one referees have occasionally filled the shoes left by their broke colleagues in NSL.

"Most referees appointed in NSL do not turn up hence those available at the pitch after a division one fixture fill up the gap despite being fatigued which leads to some of these complaints," offered a retired referee, who is now serving as the match commissioner.

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