Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Two referees may be used in FIFA World Cup 2010

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, revealed measures to David Miller of The Daily Telegraph (UK) that should improve referee efficiency at World Cup 2010 in South Africa. To be discussed at the International Board autumn meeting in Zurich, the most revolutionary is the possible introduction of the two-referee system, tested by FIFA but previously rejected by Italian referee, Pierluigi Collina. Another is use of balls containing electronic chips, to determine goal or no-goal.

Some 10 years ago, Miller discussed with Blatter the two-referee system, first piloted by the British Army FA in the 1950s. "At the beginning, there was a reluctance to consider the system," revealed Blatter. "Then we had tests conducted in Malaysia and Sao Paulo, Brazil, with encouraging results, but an unsatisfactory reaction in Norway and Italy. The response of Mr Collina, and others, was that it did not work, that 'there can only be one man'. But now we are facing a situation in the game where the pace is such that we must ask if there should be a further experiment. We observe the situation in ice hockey, for instance, with two referees and two assistants on a much smaller arena and they have no [personality] clashes with the players because they know the game."

On reliable electronic goal sensing technology, Blatter is concerned that the electronic beam-detector system is vulnerable to being obscured by limbs. "We are near to reaching a conclusion in collaboration with the Cairos-Adidas company," he said. "This is the solution. We will experiment with the ball in next year's FIFA youth championships, the under-17 in Korea and under-20 in Canada. Tests were carried out in Italy with the beam, but evidence showed it could be cut. The only trial with a ball embracing a chip was last year in Peru. It worked, but not with sufficient evidence for the international board to adopt it."

He dismissed outright any thought of a sin-bin for brief suspensions during a game. "Temporary expulsion is used in junior football, for educational purposes, but is not appropriate, we think, for the senior professional game." However he agreed that the principle of retrospective discipline, based on video evidence of incidents not detected by the referee, might be intensified. "The committee can impose sanctions on TV evidence, and even waive a card if thought to have been incorrect. In this tournament, videos have been inspected daily without finding cause for action. The principle has been in use since 1994."

Miller listed the benefits of using two referees in a game:

• Referees operate diagonally opposite each other on outside section of each half, overlapping where necessary into the other half, 15-20 yards inside touchline.
• This more than halves physical stress, as referees currently run up to 7 miles.
• The two views of any incident from 180-degree angles eliminate the "blind side". Statistics reveal many fewer fouls because players are aware of easier detection.
• There is a huge psychological factor: players and crowd cannot be angry with two men in the way they can demonise one.
• The referee is removed from central midfield area, where he is often in the way.
• At free kicks, each end of the free kick is controlled by one referee.
• Statistics show the ball remains in play more and players subconsciously veer away from referees on the outer edge of the field.
• Though assistant referees are retained, each referee is more often able to give instant whistle on offside decisions.

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