/ 7 February 2012

Agents barred from choosing referees

South Africa have vowed not to allow agents to appoint referees for friendly fixtures after allegations of match-fixing at pre-2010 World Cup warm-up games resurfaced.

The Sunday Times claimed matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Guatemala and Colombia may have been fixed by Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, who is serving a two-year jail term in Finland for fixing matches there.

Perumal reportedly arranged the friendlies for South Africa on condition that he appoint the match officials as an under-prepared national squad desperately sought matches ahead of the global tournament.

A South African Football Association (Safa) statement released on Monday said world governing body Fifa was pleased that Safa had discontinued a practice of engaging agents to source referees.

Fifa appoints referees for World Cup qualifiers and continental body CAF chooses them for Cup of Nations fixtures, leaving host countries to select officials for friendlies.

“The association took a decision to revert to appointing referees [for friendlies] through our sister football associations as this will ensure full control and integrity of outcomes of all matches,” the Safa statement added.

Record victory margin
A number of dubious penalties were awarded in the 5-0 win over Guatemala — a record victory margin for the South African national team — and a 2-1 triumph over Colombia.

Referees from Niger, Togo and Kenya handled the four warm-ups which triggered surprise as South Africa normally use match officials from countries in the region.

The Sunday Times said the Nigerien referee was also scheduled to handle a friendly against Denmark but concerned Safa officials replaced him with a local at the last minute.

Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) officials believe Perumal may have been the mastermind behind allegedly fixed matches involving the national team and a club side between 2007 and 2009 on tours of Malaysia and Thailand.

Former Zifa chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya was arrested in Harare last week on charges of corruption, bribery and match-fixing and was granted bail on Monday.

Her arrest came days after 82 footballers implicated in the ‘Asiagate’ scandal were barred from representing the country and Zifa suspended three board members last year in a related move. — AFP