KEIR RADNEDGE in MONTE CARLO: Countries which do not implement Michel Platini’s beloved five-referees system could find themselves being left behind when it comes to the appointment of officials to Europe’s elite competitions.
That advice – “this is not a threat” – was issued by UEFA’s president in a detailed assessment of the system which has been approved for use worldwide after a four-year experiment.
Platini and his head of refereeing, Italy’s Pierluigi Collina, hailed the success of the system, which places an extra official behind the by-line to a goalkeeper’s left, at Euro 2012.
This was despite the one, high-profile blunder committed by a Hungarian official in not awarding a goal to Ukraine in an over-the-line incident against England.
Ironically, John Terry – whose clearance ‘saved’ the goal – had missed the Champions League final through suspension after being sent off on the goal-line assistant’s evidence for an off-the-ball foul in Chelsea’s semi-final against Barcelona.
In July the law-making International Board gave the definitive green light to both the five-referees system and to goal-line technology.
Platini said: “We decided that the AAR system is the solution we want in UEFA . . . I’m a happy man and proud to have introduced this system.”
He pointed out that UEFA had used 12 five-man refereeing teams at Euro 2012 and twice as many officials would be needed when the finals expanded to 24 teams in 2016.
Platini added: “This means we may need two refereeing teams from one country so it could be that some countries won’t have referees there because we will give precedence to officials from countries who use the [five-man] system.”
Later Platini insisted that this was “advice . . . not a threat” but his comment offered food for thought to Europe’s wealthier associations whose leagues – such as England’s Premier League – are already considering introducing goal-line technology.
Only one, Italy’s Serie A, moved quickly enough to introduce the five-officials system from the start of this season. Clearly this may prove significant for Italian referees when it comes to plum European international appointments.
Platini first studied the five-officials system in action on its debut – under the ‘leaderhip’ of Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli – in an under-19 tie between Slovenia and Norway on October 10, 2008.
He was instantly convinced that this represented the future because it offered the match referee an extra pair of eyes ‘in the back of his head’ not only along the goal-line but within the length and breadth of the penalty box.
Collina, one-time World Cup and Champions League finals referee, took more persuasion but he is now a fully signed-up member of the system’s fan club, particularly after assessing the results of a three-year, 1,000-match assessment which included the recent Euro 2012 finals.
“The system provides for a better assessment of incidents in the penalty area,” said Collina. “That also means a reduction in the amount of holding and pulling at set pieces such as corners and free kicks because it has a deterrent effect on defenders. This was a reason we saw an increase in the number of headed goals at Euro 2012.”
Four days after the Euro 2012 final the International Board approved both the additional assistant referees system as well as goal-line technology.
Collina stressed that these were not alternative systems and Platini said he accepted that – despite his own opposition to technology because of ‘slippery slope’ fears – the systems could be used in conjunction.
“The additional assistant referees experiment had a very positive effect,” added Collina. “It brought more respect for referees among the players and higher levels of accuracy of decision-making.”
The only concern for Collina about its present application stems from a IFAB insistence that the goal-line official should not make any gesture on a decision. This had led to a false perception that they did contributed to match control when the opposite was the case.
Collina hoped, in October, to persuade IFAB to ease that restriction when it reviews reports on the system’s application.
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