Hack explains CAF purge of match officials found guilty of taking bribes

The chairman of the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) disciplinary committee, Raymond Hack, has detailed the unprecedented action against 22 match officials on the continent accused of various forms of taking bribes.

The organisation hope that the action will send a strong message of their zero tolerance on the issue.

On Saturday, CAF announced sanctions against 11 match officials, with a further 11 to hear their fate on August 5.

The most high-profile case was the life ban handed down to Kenyan assistant referee Marwa Range, who had been due to officiate at the World Cup in Russia, after he accepted a bribe of $6,000 at the African Nations Championship in Morocco in January.

Most of the officials were caught in the sting by Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who also exposed Ghana Football Association President Kwesi Nyantakyi.

Other match officials found guilty to date received bans of between two and 10 years.

"Once a referee crosses that ethical line there is no question," Hack told SABC Radio's Sport On show. "The rules are the rules, you do not accept cash from anyone. The minute you do, whether you give it back or not, you have contravened the rules."

Hack believes that the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) would be a game-changer for the continent, although in reality that is likely some way off being widespread given the expense and technology required.

"VAR is probably the best thing that can be introduced because a referee is not going to be able to suddenly give this phantom penalty or something to that effect," Hack said.

"The fans deserve to see a game where there is no thought or perception that this game is rigged. It was sad, you have a guy like this Marwa Range, who was appointed to represent Africa [at the World Cup].

"You speak to the Europeans and they say, yes but Africa is behind [in terms of match officiating]. We are not behind, but here you get somebody who is appointed to represent us at the World Cup and what does he do, he accepts a bribe of $6,000."

Hack confirms that some of the match officials found guilty have put their careers on hold, or to bed altogether, for much smaller sums of money.

"Some of them that we banned accepted bribes of $200 ... you put your career on the line for that amount of money? It is not just about you, it is your family, the people in your community ... you now have to also question, how many times has he done this?

"We got letters of apology and begging for forgiveness, but I said the only reason we got that was because they got caught. They would never have apologised otherwise."

Hack confirmed that in some instances, there were claims of cultural practices in the match officials accepting money.

"It is a big problem in Africa because certain countries have these traditions of gifts," he added, "but the CAF rules are very clear, you cannot accept cash in any form whatsoever.

"Some of them said it was not a bribe because they never discussed a game, but if I come to you and say 'here is $500, you are my friend', on what basis would you take it?

"I may not come back to you today, I may come in a month or six months, and then say to you, 'remember the gift I gave you?' and then you feel obligated..."

Hack confirmed that there had also been instances where match officials had reported approaches to them.

"We had with a referee from Zimbabwe [Norman Matemera] who was offered a bribe [ahead of a CAF Confederation Cup game]," Hack said. "He phoned us at CAF and said, 'what must I do?'. We told him to take the money from this particular person and to take pictures, to get evidence.

"We said he must give all of it back, and to make sure he did that because when he got to the airport they would search him.

"We were able to ban these people as well, and the quicker we are able to do this, the more pleasant our game is going to be.

"The more we do it, the more people will support football because they will realise it is no longer a crooked game."