Exclusive: TMJ backs PMOM to stop the rot in Malaysian refereeing standard

Sports Regime
The MFL chairman was unequivocal as he tells Goal that the current standard of match officials in Malaysia are not up to scratch and change is needed

The one common denominator in the world of football no matter the club, league or country is the post match discussion regarding the decision that the referees or match officials make during the match that did not go down well with one or even both sets of supporters. It would be churlish to assume there are no foul play at work in all the matches around the world but in most instances, it merely reflects poorly on the standard of the referees.

It is to that effect that the Malaysian Football League (MFL) has set about changing the landscape once again with the introduction of the Professional Match Officials of Malaysia (PMOM) just two weeks ago, on the back of a thorough discussion with England's Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) that will gear towards having fully professional referees in Malaysia.

Sitting down with exclusively Goal, HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) did not mince his words and calls the current crop of referees in Malaysia to be of a substantially lower quality than what is required. As someone who has revolutionised the Malaysian football from a club level to national governing body to the league organisers, it looks like the match officials are the next in line for massive changes.

"Referee in this country is a joke for so many years and they are paid very low. Most of them are part time teachers, postmen or even soldiers," said TMJ. "I want to change that. I want people to see refereeing as a serious job with good pay cheque as a profession. Not just a part time job.

"So they will be well paid, let's say (RM) 10,000. At the same time, we can use that to produce good referee in this country. But first the idea is to get foreign involvement with foreign expertise to spend their expertise here so that we can learn and teach our locals.

"So that in the future, we can have good and decent referees in this country. And also with full of integrity, trying to cut corruption, trying to defeat corruption. Because if they are not well paid, then bookies might still be able to somehow convince them. That is the idea and the objective of this."

Suresh Jayaraman

Everyone remembers the horror show that was the 2018 Malaysia Cup final between Perak and Terengganu FC. In terms of pure entertainment, it had everything but taking away the filters, it is hard to see past the comical match officiating that was produced by Suresh Jayaraman and his assistant referees. 

The Referees Committee within Football Association of Malaysia even went as far as to hold a press conference to try and paint Suresh in a good light and offered explanation that his decisions were actually valid and correct. In the aftermath of it all, the head of the committee Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh tendered his resignation which left the group in a lurch. 

From the Charity Cup between Johor Darul Ta'zim and Perak, referee Zulkarnain Zakaria only showed Perak's Amirul Azhan the yellow card after he reacted to Diogo Luis Santo bundling him over. Zulkarnain incredibly took the most lenient of views to Amirul's kick out at Diogo with both his feet, while on the ground. New season, same issues with the match officials.

"The Malaysia Cup final is the worst I've seen in the history of football. We want change, not just with the football, not just with the governing body; but also the referee. They have to be independent. If they are still with FAM, you must understand that the affiliates are all the states.

"Some of them might call the shot and I don't want them to be influenced by powerful individuals in FAM. Therefore I want them to be independent, no pressure, be professional and don't be scared to make the right decisions. They will have fitness programs, they will have education in terms of football from the English and Japanese referees. 

"If we can, we try to get foreign referees for say a few games. Big games especially. Because that is what Thailand are doing as well. Big games, Thailand use foreign referees. For the time being, that's what we want to do for cup finals or even some of the big games in the league. Maybe Perak against Selangor, maybe Pahang against Kedah, to have foreign referees but not all games because it won't be enough," added TMJ.

Mark Clattenburg

Making the referees professionals mean that they will no longer hold jobs outside of football and that means a much bigger budget needs to be allocated to them than the usual allowances. MFL and FAM will have to work together to find the money from sponsors to enable this plan to work. The likes of Mark Clattenburg and Howard Webb are just some big names that MFL are looking to come in to share their experience and expertise.

With the match officials becoming professional, they should also be held accountable for their actions and performances. Their performances in every match need to be reviewed and judged. Those that fall to meet specific requirements must be handed demotion to the lower leagues or in the worse case scenario, suspension.

The Chinese Super League, Greece Super League and Indian Super League are all leagues that have had foreign referees invited to officiate high profile matches; and the Malaysia Super League looks likely to follow suit. It is a change that has long been coming and one that will hopefully propel Malaysian referees back into the eyes of AFC as well as FIFA.

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