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Question Number: 26465

Other 6/16/2012

RE: Junior High Under 15

Dan of San Clemente, California USA asks...

Why has soccer not evolved by having more than one referee on the field to observe? In the NBA, after 80 years they realized 3 officials who triangulate their observations miss very little as opposed the perspective of one official.

Why has FIFA remained this way? It seems archaic and irresponsibly stale.

Thank you in advance for the answer.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Dan
The game of soccer has four officials and their roles are defined and have stood the test of time.
Recently UEFA introduced a trial with two extra assistants making six in total. In general though their addition has apart from goal line decisions made little change.
Personally I think the challenge is that referee crews are competing with technology in the form of multiple cameras, freeze frame, action replay etc.
I also think that it is part of the game and the decision makers are reluctant to change. It is a free flowing game with limited stoppages. If extra officials, technology were introduced the danger is that every decision becomes a committee meeting and we know where that can lead.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

FIFA tried an experiment with 2 referees and 2 assistant referees a few years back. It went so miserably that they cancelled it before it was allowed to ruin more games. I never saw an explanation of what was wrong, but whatever it was, it wasn't what they wanted for the game. Some say that perhaps those in charge didn't let the experiment run long enough to make a valid informed decision. Others say that some people were against it from the beginning and so didn't allow the experiment to reach a conclusion.

We in the US have had a continuing 'experiment' on such a system, called NFHS. That is the rule set that governs high school play, and they allow for 2 referees. Admittedly because they do not have assistants, the system has a couple of strikes against it before you even begin. All too often the referees focus on offside to the detriment of calling the game. But even discounting that, there are many incidents reported of referees not being in sync with each other on how calls are made. What gets called at one end of the field doesn't get called by the other ref at the other end, and the players don't know what is expected of them in the game. Maybe this is one of the problems that FIFA found in their experiments.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

A great question. The current diagonal system was introduced in the 20's. Since then, the players are stronger, faster, and more skilled. Moreover, there is video everywhere. Instant replay, slow-motion, and electronic illustrations allow for precise evaluation of every decision.

In fact, there has been lots of experiments on match control, including the current use of two additional assistant referees behind the goal lines at Euro 2012. Each assistant referee has a beeper flag and all, including the fourth official have electronic communication equipment. That makes six sets of eyes to observe play. While the referees (so far) have made few match changing errors, adding more referees does not seem to increase the number of dives caught, penalty kicks missed or eliminated error on key goal/no goal decisions.

Competing with the notion that more makes better is the concern about disrupting the flow of the match. There are few opportunities to stop the match and wait for a replay. Great assistant referees can aid a great referee if they have worked together to establish a team. (One failing at Euro 12 is that the additional assistant referees and the fourth official don't regularly work together).

The decision makers at FIFA (and the other members of IFAB) move deliberately and slowly. It is a great game, and they don't make change for the sake of novelty.

Finally, at the highest levels, the mistakes are few. At the lowest levels, more whistles is unlikely to increase the number of fit, experienced referees who make good decisions. Certainly, most leagues could not afford six referees for every match even if six exceptional referees were available to cover each of the hundreds of matches that need to be filled.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

At the highest level, Basketball officials ignore blatant offences if committed by superstars. Shaq would have fouled out of every game by half time had he been playing in the 60's and early 70's and continued to play as he did. Michael Jordan was allowed as many as 3 steps on hid way to a jam. Kobe is allowed to push off defenders in order to get his jumper. You really want that for soccer?
In professional Football it seems there are 20 officials on the field and they can't ever get it right. Instead, we are subjected to up to 10 minutes of waiting for some guy in the booth to decide if a player went out of bounds at the 34 or 35 yard line when it doesnt matter one way or another. Both College and Pro games seemingly have every play reviewed. It's destroying the game.
I'll take archaic soccer anyday

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