If fines are imposed on lawbreakers to serve as punishment and deter others from committing the same offence, then I daresay that the kind of sanction that was meted out to Prisons Ladies for the assault on the FIFA referee, Theresa Bremansu, fell below my expectation.
For beating the innocent female referee like a criminal after their first semi- final match against Ampem Darkoa Ladies in Sunyani recently, all Prisons Ladies attracted from the Disciplinary Committee (DC) of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) was a paltry GHc5,000 fine to be paid within 14 days. They were also ordered to produce the culprit within seven days to the police station which has the jurisdiction to prosecute him.
Out of the said amount, the DC ruled that GHC2,000 should be given to the referee as compensation for her problems. Again, I thought that was another slap in the face of somebody who was 'beaten like an armed robber' as she put it in her own words after the incident.
Though that was quite an effort from the DC, I think the punishment was not hefty enough vis-a-vis the gravity of the offence.
As the DC itself is very much aware per the number of cases of misconduct against referees pending before it, some clubs still have the mentality that match officials owe them a win at all costs once they are playing at home, hence the assault of referees when that fails to happen. That is why we need stiffer sanctions as a sign of wake call to flush out such clubs who are still living in the past.
For the stubborn and 'untouchable' ones, especially, only heavy fines and stiffer punishments stop them to serve as a deterrent to their fellow partners in crime!
The latest incident was the crowd violence which characterised the match day seven encounter between Aduana Stars and Medeama at the Nana Agyeman Badu I park at Dormaa-Ahenkro last Wednesday.
The referee's crime on that occasion, according to the home fans, was that he denied them three penalties during the match, resulting in their 1-1 draw with Medeama. In the words of Referee Emmanuel Eshun, a Corporal in the Police Service based at Wa, he and his assistants were held hostage by the irate home fans for about 40 minutes after the match, before the security personnel on duty could whisk them away to safety.
He explained to me in a chat that though Aduana Stars recovered from an early goal and fought hard in a bid to win the match, he didn't see any penalty incident which the fans complained about during the match. If I could take the referees words for it, then the onus lies on clubs to educate themselves and their supporters on the laws of the game.
For instance, there is no portion in the Laws of the Game that suggests that referees should favour home teams during the game to win matches. The earlier we accept the fact that referees are the final arbiters of the Laws of the game, the better it will be for us all.
To start with, we need sanity In our game to make it attractive to investors! To ease the financial burden on clubs, we need sponsorship. But sponsors will only come on board after we have cleaned the stables. That is food for thought.
Our clubs need to re-orient their officials and supporters not to take the law into their own hands since such uncouth behaviour to fight for points will not take us anywhere. It's sad to relate that sometimes it is club officials who instigate their supporters to attack referees if the results don't favour them.
But for how long can we continue to wallow in this quagmire of delusion and self-destruction. As I always say, the solution to the problems of Ghana Football lies in the bosom of the clubs. They just need to wake up from their hallucination and help the normalisation process to succeed with sincerity.
Though it is a human institution, it is obvious that a wind of change is blowing in the area of officiating, especially after the current batch of 150 referees were taken through the FIFA Integrity Course in Sogakope last February. Among others, referees were instructed to make 'Contact Zero' their guiding principle with regard to their relationship with club officials prior to matches.
'Contact Zero' simply implies that referees are to avoid any contact or interaction with club officials which can led to their being influenced before matches. However, my information is that some incorrigible club officials knowing too well that there is this FIFA directive for referees, still call match officials after appointments have been made by the Referees Committee for reasons best known to them.
Thankfully, we seem to have a new breed of referees, some of whom have high aspirations and for that matter are bent on exposing any club official who may try to influence them before matches. I think that should be enough notice to those incorrigible club officials to know that they are being monitored closely.
One referee, who hinted me that club officials still call referees even in this era of normalisation, stressed the need for clubs to educate themselves and their followers that it is not automatic for them to win at home at all times.
He also emphasised that the fact that a club is playing at home does not mean referees should favour them in anyway during a game, while maintaining that fairness and integrity of referees must always hold sway at all times. This is a clear message all home teams and their supporters must get straight into their skull.
Another suggestion which has popped up from the referees' front is that the Normalisation Committee (NC) should entrust match coordinators with the duty of hosting referees during matches to avoid the temptation of being influenced by club officials.
Let me end by commending Cape Coast-based Class One referee, Obed Danquah, for the excellent manner in which he interpreted the rules of the game during the seventh week match involving Hearts of Oak and Inter Allies at the Accra Stadium last Wednesday.
On the spur of the moment, many were those who thought the referee erred in cautioning Hearts' goalkeeper, Richmond Ayi, for touching the ball in the first half, while showing Inter Allies' goalkeeper, Saeed Salifu, the exit for the same offence in the second half.
But after watching the playback and also getting some education on what actually transpired, I realised that referee Danquah was right since the two scenarios were actually not the same.
In the first instance, a Hearts defender gave a back pass to his goalkeeper who grabbed the ball outside the box with two of his defenders behind him. For touching the ball outside the box, he deservedly attracted a yellow card.
However, in the second instance, the Inter Allies goalkeeper was compelled to touch the ball as the last defender and at a time Hearts striker, Joseph Esso, was advancing towards the opponents goal. Thus, goalkeeper Saeed denied the striker a goal-scoring opportunity in the process, hence the red card given by the referee.
Painful as it was, as the expulsion of goalkeeper Saeed obviously gave Hearts the advantage to win the game 2-0, I believe the management of Inter Allies would have saved themselves the trouble and embarrassment of having to petition the FA to review the referees decision, had they taken the pains to seek knowledge on the matter.
Personally, I really enjoyed the game and was so impressed with the quality of the football exhibited by Inter Allies. Though they didn't deserve to lose, that unfortunate incident proved their undoing. They must learn to accept defeat in good faith and beef up their attack to enhance their potential.
Anyway, it's a learning curve and we all hope to get there one day. But the fact remains that we have a long way to go to normalise Ghana Football since some people are still stuck neck deep in their crude methods.
May God help us all to see the light of the new dawn!