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?
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?