Referees boycott OPL start over payment issues

Al Shabab and Bausher teams line up with the visiting UAE referees on the opening day of OPL at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Thursday

Muscat - 

In a major embarrassment for the Oman Football Association (OFA), all its top-division referees boycotted the three-day opening round of the prestigious Omantel Professional League (OPL), which began on Thursday, over a payment issue.

This is the first ever instance in Oman of OFA-accredited referees boycotting top-flight domestic league matches over a stand-off.

The referees refused to officiate in the opening-round matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday over long-standing bonus payments from the OFA.

Muscat Daily has learnt from a reliable source close to the protesting referees that the total figure in ‘unpaid bonuses’, which caused the boycott, stand at around RO250,000.

The OFA, under the chairmanship of Sayyid Khalid al Busaidy, managed to defuse the crisis by requesting the UAE football body to send match officials to get the OPL started.

UAE duly responded, sending 16 officials - eight referees and eight linesmen - who officiated in the seven opening-round matches that went ahead as scheduled from Thursday to Saturday at various venues in Oman. With the stand-off between the Omani referees and the OFA continuing, a meeting is expected to take place on Sunday to resolve the long-standing dispute.

The row over pending bonus payments for the referees has been brewing since the conclusion of the inaugural edition of OPL last season.

Sheikh Shabib al Hosni, the CEO of OPL, said, “It is certainly disappointing to start the second season with Omani referees boycotting it. This issue is between the OFA’s board and the referees. It is sad because such a thing has never happened before.”

The OFA in a statement said, “The delay in disbursing bonus payments was caused due to the delay in signing marketing agreements with our partners, which was beyond our control. We had given a written promise to the referees, mentioning that their dues will be cleared over the next few days. Unfortunately, they decided to boycott the matches, leading to a significant negative impact on OPL.”

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