Top referee Victor Hlungwani has been put on ice over the last month since the controversy-laden game between Black Leopards and Bloemfontein Celtic but not because he was abused by owner David Thidela afterwards.

Hlungwani has been sidelined – South African Football Association (Safa) officials are adamant‚ though‚ that it is not an official suspension – for changing his strip to avoid a clash of colours.

The 42-year-old Hlungwani‚ who serves on the Fifa panel‚ has had no appointment since Celtic’s 1-0 Absa Premiership win against Leopards at Thohoyandou Stadium on September 16.

He was supposed to wear the new referees’ strip that carries the livery and colours of OUTsurance‚ the controversial new sponsors of match officials.

But he decided not to wear it as he felt it would clash with the green of the visiting team and so wore an old strip.

Safa communications manager Dominic Chimhavi confirmed that the change of kit issue was the reason for Hlungwani being “put on notice”.

“Hlungwani and the match commissioner were asked to explain what happened in the match and why they didn’t put on the OUTsurance gear‚” Chimhavi said on Wednesday.

“In their defence‚ they did not put on the kit because it clashes with that of Bloemfontein Celtic.

“But they went against the directive of the association and a result was put on notice.”

This has seen Hlungwani hauled over the coals although Safa officials‚ approached for comment‚ told TimesLIVE on Wednesday it was not a suspension.

Cash-strapped Safa have received a significant sponsorship from the insurance company and referees and their linesmen have been clad in their colourful lime and purple colours since‚ often clashing with the strips of teams or goalkeepers.

The sponsorship is the subject of an impending legal battle with the Premier Soccer League (PSL)‚ who claim it is a conflict of interest with their sponsorship from banks Absa and Nedbank.

It was after the 1-0 win for Celtic that Hlungwani was abused by Thidiela‚ who has since been suspended himself.

The Leopards owner allegedly threatened Hlungwani and made tribal references and now faces disciplinary action.

Thidiela has been placed on a precautionary suspension from the PSL Executive Committee until the matter is resolved.

An audio clip of Thidiela’s rant did the rounds on social media.

In it he is allegedly heard to say to Hlungwani: “I allow a mistake to happen at the ground. A mistake can happen to anybody. But this – this is not a mistake.

“I’m giving you the last warning. You come here [to Thohoyandou] at your own risk.”

TMG Digital