PETALING JAYA: The FA of Malaysia (FAM) have identified 20 referees with the potential of turning professional in the near future.
Although it may be several years before Malaysian match officials work full-time in football, FAM have prepared the groundwork for referees to become professional.
However, FAM referees competition chairman Subkhiddin Salleh said there remain several obstacles to be overcome.
"Firstly, we must have the right material and to do so we must produce a group of quality referees coming through from the Class Three ranks," said Subkhiddin after the committee's monthly meeting at Wisma FAM on Wednesday.
"State referee development officials must identify referees with the right criteria to join FAM's special project. What we need is two or three referees from every state capable of giving the current referees a run for their money."
Last week, Malaysia Football League (MFL) chief executive Kevin Ramalingam said the M-League organisers plan to set up a fund to help referees turn professional.
While welcoming MFL's move, Subkhiddin said convincing referees to leave secure jobs in the government or private sectors to work full-time as match officials is critical.
"We have a list of about 20 referees who we will interview in May to see if they are ready to become professional," said Subkhiddin.
"Some have jobs with the government and maybe these referees can be seconded to us. But we don't know yet what is going to happen.
"To officiate at the highest level, we need to get the best. It is a long process but one which we have already started."
FAM released figures showing that 807 referees sat for Class Three referee examinations throughout the country this year with the two-thirds under the age of 28.
While the grassroots numbers are encouraging, only a fraction reach Class One level with 31 and 35 referees passing written and fitness examinations in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
In a separate matter, Subkhiddin cautioned M-League teams against filing complaints against referees just for the sake of it after rejecting six objections over referee performances this year.
"There was nothing wrong with the referees' performance and I feel that some teams lodge complaints just because they are unhappy," he said.
“As they did not elaborate on the specifics of the referees' performance, there is nothing we can do"