By Neto Baptiste
Local referee assessor, Denmore Roberts, said the officials are overworked and, in most cases, are being asked to referee seven days per week.
His statement comes on the heels of criticism levelled at referees and the standard of officiating across all football divisions, more so, the Premier Division.
“We do have some issues in some of the divisions because you know that people get older and as they go up in age, they slow down; they are not as fast as before. But they still have a very special role to play in making sure that all the divisions are covered because we have more football games than referees in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.
“What we have right now are overworked referees. Some referees have to be on seven days per week in order to play the ABFA matches. If you look at the fixture, today alone you might have about five matches which means you need at least 15 officials, and then we have women’s games in the nights which means an additional three to 18 people needed today when you have only 24 to choose from,” he added.
The referees have come in for harsh criticism over the past few weeks with many, including the country’s football technical director, Rolston Williams, labelling the current standard as being poor.
Roberts said there are measures in place through which referees can be penalised for sub-standard performances.
“A referee can be demoted so you might see somebody [referee] missing for a couple of weeks from the premier league, because if you think that his level has dropped, and it has happened, and continues to happen; referees can also be suspended if it is found they are not operating in a manner in which we expect them to be, and referees have been suspended before. Referees have even been banned,” the assessor said.
Roberts, a former referee, added that despite the recent trend, the level of officiating remains at a satisfactory standard across the board.
“Refereeing is something that is always a work in progress, and I think that the standard of refereeing in Antigua and Barbuda is fairly good, especially at the premier league level. We have people of good quality; those people we have at that level are competent. What I think is happening though, is that a lot of the times the criticisms levelled at these officials are made by people who are not necessarily up to date with the laws of the game and its application,” Roberts said.
Currently, there are four referees in Antigua on the FIFA list. They are Iroots Appleton, Kevin Peters, Wasnah Barnarde and Iola Simmons.