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Five Referees at Every Europa League Game


Without a lot of herald or press coverage, UEFA announced at the start of the week that there will be five referees on the pitch for all Europa League matches next season.  An additional pair of eyes will be stationed behind each goal, focusing on incidents in and around the penalty area.

I’m 100% behind this move by Michel Platini.  The debate about video replays seems to polarize fans’ opinion, and I’m no different.  I just can’t see a workable situation that will cover the most contentious decisions in a way that doesn’t detract from the beauty of the game.

The vantage point from behind the goal will perfectly supplement the referee in the middle of the pitch.  Between them, they should be able to make better quality decisions that will make the game more fair.  The reports from the trial of the system reported fewer controversies and and reduction of holding and pushing at set-plays.

Back in the days of the Soccer Shout podcast (circa 2005-06) I was a big proponent of this approach – before it was being talked about by UEFA – so I’m going to throw a few more predictions into the ring:

  • Five referees in the Premier League in the 2010-11 season.
  • Five referees in (gasp!) the World Cup.

What do you guys think – about the system and my predictions?

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  1. burim

    March 1, 2010 at 3:04 am

    I like football soooooo muchthe way it is, but if this new regulation will apply I believe my love to football will be less. C’mon even the referees are human beings they can make involuntarily mistakes, what if this system will fail again than what is going to be 10 referees….

  2. ghetto gyal

    September 24, 2009 at 5:07 am

    blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……. GOOD IDEA THOUGHH I LIKEEEEEEEEEEE IT! =DDD….

  3. Phil McThomas

    June 8, 2009 at 7:49 am

    @brn442 – the guys behind the goal will primarily be watching out for fouls (and non-fouls) in the penalty area.

  4. brn442

    June 7, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Another hallf-baked attempt by UEFA. How is this any better than simply having video replay FOR GOAL LINE incidents only.

  5. coachie

    June 6, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    The NBA added a third ref as part of David Stern’s crackdown on the game.

  6. Phil McThomas

    June 6, 2009 at 8:47 am

    What happened in the NBA?

  7. Coachie Ballgames

    June 5, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    @ ferocho
    Completely agree, long past due to use simple 20th century technology to bring our beloved 19th century game into the 21st century.
    I’m a huge proponent of video technology, as I’ve discussed at my blog but 5 refs is definitely a step in the right direction, the big difference with the NBA is that these additional two will have dedicated tasks and positions.

  8. Edwin Khoo

    June 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Hmmm .. i think its alright .. just u need to have goal line technology like a video ref at some point soon, we just need it in the beautiful game .. i wrote about it in my blog

  9. Sir Bobby

    June 5, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Shame they never had 5 referees in the Chelsea v Barcelona game!
    The outcome of that game was so biased in Barca’s favour, do you seriously believe having five officials would have made any difference… no, me niether.
    Chelsea should have won and played Manchester United in the Champions League final.
    The fact is, Platini and Eufa did not want two English teams in cosecutive finals so they elected a fall guy to referee the Chelsea – Barca game. He was obviously under strict instructions not to let Chelsea win.
    Unfortunately, it was a crying shame for Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo that it was clearly going to be Chelsea’s night. I think his wife and family had been held to randsom.
    I’m no fan of conspiracy theories but there is no other explanation to sway me to think otherwise as I witnessed the worst refereeing decisions, so blatently one-sided during that match. His decisions were that bad that the police were said to be so concerned about his safety that they changed his hotel before organising his secret exit from Britain.

    Referees don’t have it easy though. The English game is played at a much faster tempo than on the continent and it is understandable that even some of the fittest referees in the world can not keep up with the pace of the game. Referees have and always will make mistakes, they are human. However, a good referee always knows when he is wrong and will often try and even things out in the course of the game to redeem himself. Alas, good referees these days are very few and far between.
    Some referees seem to thrive on notoriety much more than they really ought to and others just want to be famous, something that Graham Poll knows plenty about!
    In general, referees this season have been of the poorest standard because of the rules that they themselves have to abide by.
    We have seen a surge of incentives by Eufa to try and control the raging beast that is the English game and it’s dominance in Europe. R e s p e c t towards referees being last seasons’ incentive was doomed to failure – just ask Mr Drogba!
    We are getting to the stage where incompetent referees don’t just decide matches, they decide the whole competition itself.
    So, whether it be one referee or five referees, it will make no difference to the outcome of a “dodgy decision”.
    I am under no illusion what-so-ever that football games, especially in Europe are rigged. That is why I am in full favour of video technology. This would be the fairer option but in any case, there is too much money at stake in betting circles to warrant the use of video technology.

    • SSReporters

      June 5, 2009 at 9:53 am

      “The English game is played at a much faster tempo than on the continent”

      Where did you read that? I would say the Spanish game is faster than the English game.

      And I just think you’re a bitter Chelsea fan. The ref being one-sided had nothing to do with Essien whiffing his clearance, leading to Iniesta’s goal.

      • Sir Bobby

        June 8, 2009 at 6:23 am

        No sir, I am not a Chesea fan.
        I really do believe in a fair play system where players, coaches and managers alike should respect the rules and accept all decisions of the officials.
        I was simply using that match purely as an example of terribly unfair refereeing.
        As a long standing player and spectater of many English and European games I have witnessed many unbelievably bad decisions that were either called or not called by referees.
        On many occasions where a crucial decision was not awarded correctly it totally changed the result of a game. Poor and unfair decisions like this often leads to the players and coaches remonstrating towards the officials, which leads to dissent. The game is stopped, and time is added on while players receive their yellow and red cards. If a red card is not rescinded, this in turn can lead to unfair suspensions/fines for key players.
        This spoils the game for everone involved from spectators, players and coaches to managers and owners.
        Players these days do earn fantastic amounts of money and they need to spend a lot of time on the pitch instead of taking an early bath.

        I have already witnessed too many prima donna referees in my game and I strongly feel there is no need for two more to be added.

        All this can be easily avoided by the introduction of a video ref.
        I see this as the only fair step forwards.
        Just like we have seen in rugby and tennis, where video technology has been used, disputed decisions are swiftly settled along with all arguments in a matter of seconds.

  10. Mark

    June 4, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    This is probably the only major sport that is played with the same rules and regs at every level right down to grass roots and there is a lot to be said for that in my opinion.

  11. SSReporters

    June 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Technology, please.

    If this has anything to do with the US, then the foreign TV Premier League rights here just took a huge turn of events.

  12. hal

    June 4, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    >>>They want any type of game of the sport — from a World Cup Final down to an amateur match at a local park — to follow the same set of rules, to make it a simple game that is no different at any level. The last thing they want is the professional game to be governed by different rules that embraces technology while the local, amateur level doesn’t feature technology.

    But that happens now. Sometimes you can’t get three referees for some local or amateur games, so you have to run a two-ref game, or even one-ref for some youth and small-sided games. So it’s already different. Goal line technology doesn’t make the law different, it just helps to make a correct call of one (Did the ball completely cross the line, per the law.)

  13. mk

    June 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    this is another bs idea by platini.
    football is fine the way it is, quit trying to improve everything!
    this sport has been great with the number of officials it has and there simply is no need for platini experiments.
    so there are a few wrong calls, guess what: it s part of this most beautiful sport there is!

  14. ferocho

    June 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Has the refereeing improved on the NBA with more officials? No. We need to move forward and stop the fear of technology. Use human resources and technology in a more efficient manner: Two officials watching the action from a monitor, 3 opportunities per team to review only game changing calls (penalties, goals annulled and such). It would take less time and less embarrassment than a maraud of players cursing and shaking the ref. And one more thing, allow post game review of calls to invalidate unfair yellow or red cards that might prevent players from missing important games, and punish unrepentant divers and violent tacklers equally.
    And for goodness sake; can’t we have a technology that can tell when a player is on offside?
    As for the argument that we should have the same conditions for amateurs and for professionals: A lot of money and emotion is invested on games played by national teams and professional players. Let’s find a way to avoid human errors whenever possible. Otherwise, we’ll have to endure all these conspiracy theories and see players like Drogba behave like imbeciles. Not to mention that it would give legitimacy to the winners and credibility to the game.

  15. Phil McThomas

    June 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Just for the record…

    >> Five referees in (gasp!) the World Cup.

    I’m talking about the 2010 WC.

  16. Sam Dalton

    June 4, 2009 at 7:20 am

    It seems something worth experimenting because so many fouls do take place in the penalty area during set pieces that go unoticed. But because the two extra officials will be behind the goals they will not always get a clear view of ‘goal-line’ incidences, so a chip has surely got to be introduced soon.

  17. Phil McThomas

    June 4, 2009 at 6:08 am

    >> Is this new 5 man system allowing the goal line referees to award penalties?

    Yes. They’ll be just like linesmen – they will signal to the ref when they see a foul, and it’ll be up to the ref to award the penalty kick.

  18. The Gaffer

    June 3, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    This is a tough one. I’m for and against it. I’m for it because something needs to be done and at least this is a step forward in the right direction to reduce the number of mistakes made by referees during games (or incidents they miss).

    But I’m against it because it still doesn’t ensure that mistakes won’t happen. Plus, imagine if you’re one of the two goal-line assistant referees and you’ve been sitting behind the goal for a dozen matches and haven’t witnessed any goal-line “did the ball cross the line or not” incidents. And then, all of a sudden, it happens when you least expect it and you, as a goal-line referee weren’t paying complete attention. You’re forced into making a decision but you make the wrong call.

    The chip technology in the ball would make the call conclusive and will ensure 100% accuracy. Putting an assistant referee behind each goal isn’t going to make calls 100% accurate.

    From my perspective, UEFA and FIFA are looking for solutions that make sure that soccer are officiated by humans rather than embracing technology for one major reason. They want any type of game of the sport — from a World Cup Final down to an amateur match at a local park — to follow the same set of rules, to make it a simple game that is no different at any level. The last thing they want is the professional game to be governed by different rules that embraces technology while the local, amateur level doesn’t feature technology.

    That’s what I believe is their thinking and where they’re coming from. I understand their reasoning, but I don’t agree with it.

    The Gaffer

  19. Thomas

    June 3, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    A move I also wouldn’t mind seeing.

    I don’t like the idea of video replay. Goal line technology would be alright. But I like how this would allow you to keep the human element in the game, while simultaneously improving the accuracy of calls.

    Is this new 5 man system allowing the goal line referees to award penalties?

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