Three wise men journeyed to south Trinidad on Sunday after getting an epiphany to do good for the state of football in the country.
Since November 5, FC Santa Rosa’s head coach and owner Keith Look Loy and the TT Football Referees Association (TTFRA) have been engaged in a tit-for-tat, following the admitted verbal abuse of female referee Cecile Hinds by Look Loy and his assistant coach Jovan Rochford during a game against Guaya United at the Arima Velodrome.
The mess has dragged on for three weeks and seen two games in Tobago and one in Palo Seco boycotted by referees.
On Sunday, three brave officials, acting without the support of the TTFRA, ended the protest and showed up for the FC Santa Rosa vs Siparia Spurs clash. Head referee Roger Smith and his assistants Devon London and Junior Geoffrey showed themselves true servants of the game by putting their names on the line “for the good of the game.”
But when egos come to the fore, what should have been seen as an act to bridge the gap between two warring parties has been viewed as treason, and these three emissaries could now face punishment.
Joseph Taylor, president of the TTFRA, told Newsday yesterday the referees who decided to officiate at the TT Super League (TTSL) game between FC Santa Rosa game and Siparia Spurs face consequences.
“We will look at it seriously,” he said. “There are implications; there is a process by which referees are appointed to games, and that is what we are first of all going to deal with. We have processes and procedures, so we are going to deal with it.”
In this entire sordid affair, only these three referees can walk away with their hands looking clean.
Interestingly, FC Santa Rosa posted on their Facebook page on Sunday that the “renegade referees” and “rebel referees” had ended their boycott. Is the club not aware that Roger Smith, Devon London and Junior Geoffrey are all certified referees so, by continually taking shots at the local refereeing body, they are also indirectly attacking the trio who did them a favour by ensuring their second journey to Palo Seco Recreation Ground did not come to naught?
The Referees Association also has questions to answer about the legality of its boycott. Since Hinds submitted her report to the disciplinary committee of the TTSL about what happened on November 5, while she was refereeing FC Santa Rosa vs Guaya United, proper protocol would have been to wait until the matter has been adjudicated.
Instead, referees have withheld their services, and even after the one-match bans and $1,000 fines given to the Santa Rosa duo, they have said they were not satisfied with the punishment and continued to boycott FC Santa Rosa.
It is clear that their action not only hurts FC Santa Rosa but football on a whole, costing both clubs significant losses on match days and also damaging the credibility of the league. Why should football fans leave their home to attend a game when no referee might show up and the game is postponed?
The day after the three referees ended the boycott on their own initiative, the TT Football Association (TTFA) finally intervened, held a meeting with the TTSL and the referees, and a truce was called.
Good sense has prevailed after all, but caught in the previous crossfire are the three referees who on Sunday risked their jobs and their names to show all stakeholders that in the midst of their public squabbles, football is suffering – and the beautiful game must go on. Instead of being disciplined, they should be applauded for their loyalty, not just to their fellow referees, but to football, which emerged the true winner.