Senior refereeing officials from UEFA's member associations have been briefed by the European body about the benefits of the additional assistant referee (AAR) system, which has been part of the Laws of the Game since this summer.
At a workshop at the House of European Football in Nyon this week, associations were given detailed information and advice on the system. UEFA is using additional assistant referees in its club competitions in the wake of a decision by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in July, following experiments which had taken place since 2008. The referee, two assistants and fourth official are joined by two additional assistant referees positioned alongside each goal line, with the particular brief to watch for incidents in the penalty area and help the match referee in taking decisions.
UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina said the system had proved its worth since the experiment began at a UEFA European Under-19 Championship mini-tournament in Slovenia four years ago and was continued as a trial in UEFA's major club competitions. The results have been clear to see. "The main goal is for additional assistant referees to give support when a decision has to be taken – particularly inside the penalty area, where a decision can affect the result of a match," he explained.
"What we have seen over some 1,200 matches is a better [refereeing] control of the match," he added. "There has been a reduction in incidents – particularly at set pieces such as corners and free-kicks – better control of the goal line and higher accuracy in terms of decisions taken by the assistant referees. These goals have been achieved thanks to additional assistant referees."
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino opened the workshop on Wednesday and Thursday by outlining the advantages of additional assistant referees. "As a policy decision, the UEFA Executive Committee decided to use additional assistant referees in all our club competitions," he said. "We think they help the referee take difficult decisions within a very short time frame. To have two more experienced colleagues who can help [referees] take these decisions in the penalty area is very helpful."
All FIFA member associations are free to fully apply the system, which proved a success at UEFA EURO 2012, especially as a deterrent against penalty-area incidents. UEFA has produced a DVD for its member associations, which provides essential information on implementing the AAR system. The DVD is based on a presentation given by Pierluigi Collina in Kyiv in July. Through key video examples – particularly those related to UEFA EURO 2012 matches, where audio communication among the referee teams was recorded – the DVD demonstrates the practical benefits on the pitch, as well as offering solutions for utilising refereeing resources efficiently in order to implement the system.
Collina also emphasised that the additional assistant referees had fulfilled a need brought about by changes in football over the past decade. "The biggest change in the last ten years has been speed," he reflected. "Today it is very difficult for a referee to take a decision – much more than in the past. The referee's job has become more and more difficult.
"With football getting even faster and the players fitter, it seems that sometimes the men in black face a 'mission impossible'," he added. "Two extra pairs of eyes focusing on the penalty areas are of valuable assistance to the referee, and strengthen the refereeing team in confidence and numbers, while allowing the game to flow."
Since the start of this season, AARs have been deployed in Italy's top flight, Serie A. Collina said that other national associations who may decide to begin using the system would have the advantage of hindsight and learning. "When we started the experiment, we were starting from zero," he said. "Associations would not have to start from there, because there has been three years of experience. The purpose of this workshop is provide you with all the information that you need to understand how the AAR project and system works in practice."
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