Referees on whistle-stop tours as Indian Super League and I-League run together
Indian Super League and I-League running simultaneously has meant that referees are not always getting conventional seven-day gap between gamesUpdated: Feb 03, 2018 23:04 IST
Holding the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League together has had Indian referees virtually living on jet planes. This has meant increased opportunity and fatter paycheques but also the risk of running some of them to the ground.
Consider this: Tejas Nagvenkar did four games between December 22 and January 10, two in each league. That meant Nagvenkar, one of the six Indians with a Fifa badge, was in Chennai on December 22, in Kolkata one week later, travelled to Bangalore for the ISL game between Bangalore FC and ATK on January 7 and was in New Delhi three days later to supervise the match between Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters.
A Rowan, another Fifa badge holder, did the NorthEast United-ATK game in Guwahati on January 12 and was with the whistle in New Delhi on January 14 for the match between Delhi Dynamos and Bengaluru FC.
Those games came after Rowan did one in Jamshedpur on January 5. That meant three games in nine days made worse by the fact that there is no airport in Jamshedpur. So, a three-hour road trip to Ranchi or an almost five-hour train ride to Kolkata must be added to every visit.
Pratik Mondal did two I-League games in four days last December. For that he travelled from Kozhikode to Aizawl. That’s 2264km by air usually spread over three flights and layovers. Then there is R Gupta, who did ISL games in Kochi and Kolkata on January 21 and 25.
“There is no rule but conventionally, a seven-day gap between games is provided for especially if referees need to travel,” said Milan Dutta, former head of the referees’ unit of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and a former member of the referees’ committee of the Asian Football Confederation.
“While established referees have teams breathing easier, you do have to address the issue of fixture pile-up,” said Dutta who has supervised World Cup and Olympic qualifiers and Asian Cup games.
Workload or not, some refereeing decisions have got coaches in the ISL hot under the collar. FC Pune City’s Ranko Popovic was given a four-match touchline ban and fined Rs 5 lakh for ripping into Rowan’s handling of the game against FC Goa on December 23.
“Who was the referee (Rowan) protecting? Are there different rules for Pune City?” Popovic had said.
Chennaiyin FC’s John Gregory was banned for three games for public display of anger at Ranjit Bakshi’s handling of their away game to Jamshedpur FC on December 28.
“Referees’ assignments have been a massive challenge this time. Initially, the referees too were worried and, yes, there have been teething problems but I think, by and large, their supervision has exceeded expectations. Look at the two Kolkata derbies (Mohun Bagan-East Bengal ties) that went off without incident,” Goutam Kar, Director Referees, AIFF, told Hindustan Times over the phone from New Delhi.
CR Srikrishna did both legs of the I-League’s Kolkata derby, the second one on January 21 five days after a game in Aizawl.
With the ISL, which began on November 17, keen on improving the refereeing standards --- they hold workshops where experts from UEFA visit --- the idea has been to give Indians more game time. Running parallel from November 25, the I-League too has ensured that more referees get top-level work experience.
And it has boosted their earnings. A ref gets Rs 12,000 per match in the ISL and Rs 7,000 for every I-League game.
Getting a foreign referee would cost approximately $850 for match days and a daily allowance of nearly $300 on non-match days, according to an AIFF official who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.
Since the ISL does not improve their international standing, foreign referees are reluctant to come. The competition’s most glaring error so far came in 2014 and an Indian wasn’t in charge. Uzbek ref Ravshan Irmatov denied ATK’s Luis Garcia a goal against Kerala Blasters after the ball had crossed the line. By then, Irmatov had been part of two World Cup finals and an Olympic Games and was rated as one of the world’s best referees.
Fixture pile-up for some referees:
Tejas Nagvenkar: Two ISL games in 3 days --- Bangalore (Jan. 7) and New Delhi (Jan 10).
A. Rowan: 3 ISL games in 9 days ---- Jamshedpur (Jan. 5), Guwahati (Jan. 12), New Delhi (Jan. 14).
CR Srikrishna: 2 I-League games in 5 days --- Jan. 16 (Goa), Jan. 21 (Kolkata). I-League and ISL game in 6 days --- Dec. 3 (Kolkata), Dec. 9 (Goa).
Pratik Mondal: 2 I-League games in 4 days --- Jan. 9 (Kozhikode), Jan. 13 (Aizawl).
R Gupta: 2 ISL games in 4 days --- Jan 21 (Kochi), Jan. 25 (Kol).
Pranjal Banerji: I-League and ISL game in 5 days --- Jan 28 (Kozhikode), Feb. 2: Pune
How much refs are paid
Rs 12,000: Indian refs are paid per ISL game
Rs 7,000: Refs are paid per I-League game
$850 (approximately): Foreign refs are paid per ISL game. $300 (approximately) daily allowance on non-match days.
Cameroon’s A Juenkou has been the only foreign ref in ISL4 so far. He did four games in eight days, from Nov 17-25.