Step in Right Direction: Champions League to Add 2 Assistant Referees

Fulham FC vs FC Basel UEFA Europa League 01/10/09 Photo Nicky Hayes Fotosports International Mark Schwarzer of Fulham watched by the Additional Assistant referee.

While I do not always agree with UEFA President Michel Platini, like his proposals for wage caps and vendetta against the big-spending Premier League, the Frenchman has been spot on in implementing more referee assistants on the pitch.

Platini was massive in introducing extra assistants to aid the referee in last season’s Europa League competition. In that system, one official is placed at each goal and can assist the referee with goal-line calls and penalties. Because of the success of that experiment, it was announced today that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has ratified UEFA’s proposal for the use of extra officials in all Champions League matches for the 2010-2011 season.

While the system was largely a success in last year’s Europa League, there were a few instances where calls were missed in critical areas, leading cynics to proclaim that additional officials do very little. But, as this was the first time in history for extra assistants to be utilized, there were always going to be a few hiccups along the way. Errors could be blamed on the assistants not being authoritative enough, and UEFA should underline how important a job these goal-line assistants now have.

Giving these officials the confidence and authority to make difficult calls will ameliorate any tentativeness they may experience in their new position. Aside from the head referee, these officials may very well be the most important on the pitch. With these added assistants, a bounty of positives are introduced to the game:

A) Discouraging simulation: With an additional pair of eyes at each goal witnessing action in the most important area on the field, hopefully diving in the box will be discouraged. Players will know that cheating their way to a penalty could more easily be caught, and could be deterred from doing so. Well, maybe not the Latin players, but we can pray, can’t we?

Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer watches as the ball crosses the line during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against England at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010. England were denied an equalising goal on Sunday when a Frank Lampard shot from 2O metres out hit the crossbar and dropped well over the line.  REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)
REFILE - CLARIFYING CAPTION  England's Frank Lampard (R), Wayne Rooney (2nd R), Steven Gerrard (3rd R) and John Terry (L) react after Lampard's shot on goal, which tv replays showed crossed the line, was not given during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against Germany at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010.  REUTERS/Christian Charisius (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

B) Phantom goals: In the wake of Frank Lampard’s “ghost” non-goal in England’s second round defeat at the hands of Germany, adding these eyes is an absolute must.  Had there been an assistant watching Lampard’s shot as it left his foot and tracking it to the goal, England would certainly have been awarded their equalizer and perhaps the World Cup would have turned out differently (although probably not knowing the England players).

C) Spotting penalties and infractions: The most critical area of the pitch deserves a pair of eyes, does it not?  Ultimately, yes, the referee has the final say and will be the one blowing his whistle the minute he feels a penalty has occurred, but with an assistant present, if he is ambiguous on the call he can either default to or confer with his assistant to make sure he gets the call right.

Granted, calls will still be missed with these new assistants.  In American football, there are seven referees on the field with equal authority when it comes to calling an infraction, and there are still blown calls.

Is UEFA’s new system perfect?  No.  But they and IFAB have taken a monumental step in the right direction to clean up some of the abysmal officiating the sport indefensibly tolerates.  One thing is certain: FIFA will fall well behind their European counterpart on any progressive ideas to better the sport.

What do you think about this issue?  Good or bad move by UEFA?

9 thoughts on “Step in Right Direction: Champions League to Add 2 Assistant Referees”

  1. I am in favor of the additional officials.

    What I would like, from UEFA or somebody else, is to know: (1) how many decisions were made because of the goalline official informing the referee of something they saw when no other decision would have been made otherwise; and (2) how many decisions of the referee were reversed based on information from the goalline officials.

    I would hope that UEFA kept such simple data from last year’s Europa League.

  2. “Because of the success of that experiment”

    They obviously didn’t go to any Fulham games then! 2 metres away and they still gave a red card to the wrong player. They did not spot Zamora being mugged. I cannot recall a single call that the goal line ref made – all they did was get in the way of seeing the game when we sat behind the goals.

    They seem more scared of making a call than the normal linesmen. They certainly are too scared to make a penalty call.

    Surely a camera is cheaper, easier and less prone to mistakes.

    1. I am not in favor of replays, as I believe they open up a can of worms for this sport that has very little stoppages. I also believe in a tennis (Hawkeye) and hockey-esque goal-registering system. When the ball crosses the line, something should instantaneously alert the head referee. No replay, no controversy. Easy.

      I think that once these officials get the confidence and nerve to make the big calls, it will work.

  3. I gather that Hawkeye offered the PL free installation at all PL grounds. I would love to see something like this done though dont know if the PL have the authority to accept such a thing. (Hawkeye is the technology which does the tennis).

    Still more officials cant hurt, I am not sure who quite has authority over the other and what happens when one sees it cross and another doesnt. Still, it cant hurt (I hope).

  4. You would think six eyeballs on the same part of the pitch, between the referee, the linesman and now the goal assistant, would be able to call a correct game, but we’re still relying on human instinct and reaction to a fast game. There were supposedly four eyeballs on Lampard’s goal yet they still blew it.
    Still, something had to change and at least this show’s football’s willingness to address areas of concern.
    Communication over the wireless between the refs will be the key. Will these new assistants speak up??

    1. That definitely will be the key: communication. It is imperative for these assistants to take the lead if they spot a foul in the box or a ball go over the line, and they must communicate that instantly to the referee.

      I don’t see how adding these assistants could ever hurt, they can only be positives. It is ludicrous for soccer to employ one referee on a field bigger than an American football field and expect to spot every infraction. Not possible.

  5. the one question i have is why do FIFA refs suck so bad. i watch plenty of premier league, la liga, MLS, and non-FIFA international games with the same amount of referees as thee were at the World Cup, and there are not nearly as many blown calls. obviously some calls are missed, and that is a part of any sport, but never have i ever seen something like the refs in South Africa. this new UEFA rule is definitely a good thing, but i still don’t understand why every other ref in the world can ref a game perfectly smoothly, and then the World Cup rolls around and all of the FIFA refs forget how to do their jobs

    1. Well the FIFA refs are referee in other leagues around the world. That is what it is to be a FIFA ref.

      The ref in the USA-Slovenia game was from Mali, and the ref that worked the final was Howard Webb from the Premier League. So they run the gamut, but all are FIFA-sanctioned which means they work in a FIFA-sanctioned league somewhere.

  6. A few hiccups? Are you serial??? I thought that everybody agreed on the failure of having more referees. Just watching some of the games with Fulhalm, valencia and Atletico Madrid made clear that their errors were egregious considering that they didn’t have much to call.
    I prefer quality over quantity. Football players are professionals. That’s all they do. Everyday. That should be also the case for referees. Professional athletes who can follow fast paced plays. Then technology to help with offsides, out of bounds balls, and allowing goals.

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