ALMOST 14 000 soccer referees in South Africa have to go through the ranks within the next four years before the next Fifa World Cup in 2022.
To make that target, as well as the fact that the South African Football Association (Safa) has to produce at least four senior and professional level 7 referees in order to advance to the world cup, a handsome sponsorship of R50-million has come their way.
Outsurance announced on September 11 they will form a partnership with Safa over a period of five years where match officials in the country will benefit from it.
Safa’s focus will be on improving the quality of refereeing during matches, which not only include the international games but also from club level upwards, facilitating skills development for better on-field performance and a review of remuneration to ensure fairness across the various grades.
According to Safa vice-president Ria Ledwaba, more women referees will be implemented in future in what is normally a male-dominated sport and referees.
Akhona Makalima, the first woman referee to reach level 6 umpiring in the country said, “I sometimes feel a little lonely there, but I am proud of what I have achieved. I am looking forward to the days when I can be out on the field as a trio (two assistant referees and Makalima), so we can go forward and represent South Africa.
“It is also important for me to show women can be referees in this male-dominated sport. I urge more to come forward and join me.”
Interesting enough, Outsurance also sponsors the rugby referee association and top class woman referee Aimee Barrett-Theron became the first female referee to take charge of a Currie Cup fixture recently.
Outsurance head of brand and social engagement Hazel Chimhandamba said, “We are delighted to partner with Safa on this first-of-its-kind football sponsorship, which we are certain will advance the standard of refereeing. The team of match officials are the custodians of fair play on the field. We believe if we can upskill our match officials, we’ll improve the consistency and quality of the officiating which should ultimately improve the overall level of football played.”
“As Safa, we are excited to partner with a corporation that has already achieved so much with their existing sponsorships, and who we know are determined to make a positive difference in this space. Our motivation to partner with Outsurance was their objectives for the sponsorship aligned with those we have set out for Vision 2022, one of which is the progress and inclusivity of women in football, which will receive assistance from this sponsorship,” said Safa deputy chairperson of referees, Mbongeni Shibe.
The sponsorship extends beyond branded apparel. At the core of this sponsorship is the development of refereeing in South Africa, to the benefit of both players and supporters.