As we approach another week of European football, with the Champions and Europa League set to hit our TV screens between Tuesday and Thursday night, some questions have to be asked of UEFA’s introduction of a 5th and 6th referee in European football and their completely cack-handed approach to implementing this system – so it works for the good of the game.
The first and obvious question is are these extra officials actually contributing anything to actually achieving the correct decisions being made? The simple answer is no! Despite the introduction of more assistants, Captain Hook could count on his available fingers, the number of times these waxwork dummies have actually been seen to assist the boss in helping to achieve their chief objective to ‘ensure that the Laws of the Game are upheld, informing the referee of incidents of any kind that he may otherwise have missed, particularly in key areas of the field like the penalty area and its surroundings’ – since their introduction to the Europa League group stages in the 2009/10 season.
The second is why do they not have flags? Mind boggling really, given the bright shiny flag is such a tried and tested method of attracting attention. Instead, the hapless incumbents of these positions are given, what appears to be a toned down version of an old fashioned police truncheon. No wonder, they’re not making any decisions! I for one would be just plain embarrassed to wave such an implement in a stadium full of fans, who have never been known for their fondness towards officials. This said, they do have wireless communication through to the referee in the middle. So perhaps the lot of them just suffer from stage fright or are mute? Alternatively UEFA might just be entrusting a little crowd control on them as something to do with their underused batons?
Last, but by no means least, why this season have they started to stand on the opposite side of the goal that they originally stood on? Apparently, the official line from UEFA is because referees like to run the diagonal. Do they really? How nice for them; when their job is to run anywhere on the pitch necessary to get a good viewpoint of the game – they are being paid to officiate. In order to ‘ensure that the Laws of the game are upheld’. Even more baffling, when you consider the promotional video UEFA released, which shows them standing in their original position.
So can we assume, that they no longer see more and the now we see exactly the same video is on its way?
They have a system of multiple referees in American Football and it appears on the surface to work in a much better way. Why? Simple, they actually do what they are there for. Every time they see an incident, they throw their flag on the field of play. Well it’s not actually a flag and more of a yellow hanky, with a knot tied in it, but you get my point – they’re paid to do a job and as such endeavour to do it.
The more cynical amongst us might suggest, that UEFA and football authorities in general have no or little interest in getting the decisions right in football. A game, where at the highest level in the Champions League the stakes are now so high. The very cynical might think this is because it still leaves some scope to ensure the status quo is maintained at the expense of the smaller clubs playing in Europe.
Football has been a professional sport for a very long time now. The most popular sport on a global scale by a long way, yet the standard of officiating is still light years behind that of Rugby Union, which has only been professional since 1995. How can this be in a world so driven by technology? We are constantly given stats to tell us how far a player has run in a match and the such like, yet, there is firm resistance from the powers that be to actually make sure the decisions taken on the pitch, which affect our beautiful game on every level are the right ones.
UEFA chose to go down this route of extra officials instead of technology. The evidence so far, with the arse-about-face way it has been implemented is screaming from the rooftops, is that it’s a bad one. It is a system that could possibly work, but while the extra officials continue to be seen to remain marginalised and not do the job they’re paid to do, it never ever will!