South African Football Association’s (Safa) head of referees Tenda Masikhwa says their officials are ready to hit the ground running as far as the restart of the 2019/20 Premier Soccer League (PSL) season is concerned.

He says their officials were given training programmes since the country’s Level 5 of the lockdown with the help of Fifa’s Mademba Mbacke who heads Africa’s fitness team, they have been working hard behind the scenes.

With media reports suggesting the PSL season could be completed in one province, Masikhwa says he is confident the referees are ready to get back to the field but insists protocols will still need to be followed.

“The departments of health and sport have set strict criteria before they can sanction any sporting event. The checks and balances need to be in place to safeguard everyone, and this includes the match officials,” Masikhwa told City Press.

“The [Safa and PSL] task team has been working hard to ensure that the protocols for match officials – referees, assistant referees, and match commissioners – are in place.

“Specific protocols speak to specific functions to make the event a success, so it is certainly not a case of one size fits all. Referees have different roles to play and, therefore, the protocols need to be different too.

“Given that the rounding up of the 2019/20 season may be in tournament format, we are more than ready to meet the demands that may be placed on match officials.

“The match officials and match commissioners have been working hard – in confinement – during the months since the national state of the disaster was declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa [in March].

“Our fitness coaches, led by [Safa referees fitness instructor] Derek Hanson, has given the match officials training programmes to follow since lockdown Level 5.”

With Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa having announced that PSL clubs can return to training last week, the league’s governing body is yet to indicate on when they can go-ahead as well as the dates and venues for the remaining games.

“The Fifa fitness team in Africa, led by Mademba Mbacke, has given guidelines for our fitness coaches and, indeed, all leagues returning to competition, to follow to ensure that match officials are competition-ready and pose no risk of injuries or even worse, death,” he added.

“Each match official has had to upload their training data and training logbook to a central database.

“The data was analyzed and the fitness coaches then gave each match official assigned to them specific feedback to improve their level of fitness. We are therefore confident that match officials are close to competition readiness.

“We also know that a match official does not only need to be fitness-ready but also match-ready. We are therefore looking at how we can meet this target, just like players need actual game time and friendlies to sharpen their skills.”

After the matches were forcefully halted in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Kaizer Chiefs lead the table with 48 points followed by Mamelodi Sundowns who have 44.

Sharing third spot is Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United who are both tied on 40 points so far.