Date: 8th September 2010 at 11:37am
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The decision to continue with the experiment of using two additional referees to patrol the goal lines tested in last seasons Europa league competition is to be extended for a further two years, starting this season, to all Uefa club competitions and embracing the Champions League. Fifa have also announced that they are considering adopting this practice for the 2014 world cup.

The proposal was accepted this summer by footballs law-making body IFAB following Platini`s Europa League experiment last season. Speaking prior to the IFAB meeting in support of the proposal Platini said: “I think we have to change refereeing because of the cameras of the TV. They show everything, whereas all the field cannot be covered by the eyes of the referee. If I handle the ball like this, you don`t see it, but five cameras will see that I score the goal with the hand. In my job, it`s to say we have to cover it.

“How can we cover it? By two additional referees. Not with two cameras, but with two additional referees you can cover every part of the football pitch. Then the referee can make a mistake or not a mistake, but whether it`s interpretation or bad interpretation, it`s his job.

“For me, the experiment has been a success because I saw many games in the Europa League and some games in the Champions League. And, to me, there have been more problems in the Europa League than in the Champions League. Why? Because I think the referee he feels better with two more referees. He can make the decision easier if he`s well helped with two referees. He runs less because he doesn`t have to cover the whole pitch. Because of this, he`s more lucid, more aware. And if a referee is present and makes the bad decision, I have no problem with that.”

It`s not without its downside though. Since neutral linesmen (now known as assistant referees) were introduced in 1898 to support a single referee, officiating had remain unaltered for almost 100 years until fourth officials were first introduced in 1991. Mainly to stop touchline bust-ups between opposing coaching staff and hold up time boards. But with wi-fi contact established between ref and assistant refs the introduction of two further communicators might require one of those message handling services to deal with it all.

We are experiencing a high level of calls in this match. Your call will be answered as soon as possible. If you wish to report an offside press 1, for shirt pulling press 2…… cetera.

You can see the potential for too much information making it harder for the referee to make a quick decision rather than easier. Nonetheless referees have supported the experiment at a recent convention noting the special training needs to ensure the experiment works properly. “Additional assistants must not be static,” said UEFA refereeing officer Hugh Dallas. “They must be active and move along the goal line to ensure the best view [or] angle of any possible incident.”

The issue of positioning is one that Uefa has been working on and identified this in a recent publication saying that ‘positional play has been readjusted, with the referee no longer running the traditional diagonal but, with a view to forming a visual triangle with the touchline and goal-line assistants, taking a more central position in the final third of the pitch – where there is a potentially higher risk of impeding play’.

The experiment was also endorsed at an elite club coaches conference very recently with Uefa technical director, Andy Roxburgh, claiming that they were very positive about the experiment. “They’re aware of the problems of going down a technological route, and would like to keep things human if possible. This is an experiment to try and minimise errors. Everyone says it is definitely worth trying.

“This role of additional assistant referees is new, and has to be nurtured and developed – and the idea of having two extra eyes to look at the penalty area will help in the case of dramatic incidents,” Roxburgh added. “There is also a deterrent effect, in that there might not be so much pulling and pushing in the penalty area if players know there are extra eyes watching them.”

Though goal line technology is to be discussed at the next scheduled IFAB conference in October it does seem that FIFA are still opposed to going down the video technology route, which while it does have a number of drawbacks might make redundant some of the 6 referees (7 if you include the fifth officials used at the last two world cup tournaments) set to officiate at matches in future. In time, for the bureaucrats at least, that could become its biggest drawback.

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