Blatter backs free-kick wall spray

BUENOS AIRES - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed his support for a spray being trialled in several Latin American leagues to mark the correct distance for defensive walls at free kicks, the product's inventor said.

The South American Football Confederation (CSF) approved the use by referees of the spray, used to mark a line on the pitch, in the Copa Sudamericana, the CSF's equivalent of the Europa League this year.

The white spray is a non-contaminating foam that can be used on grass, synthetic and dirt pitches and disappears between 45 seconds and two minutes after its application.

"Blatter was impressed with the presentation of the aerosol container and said if it's good for football there are no reasons to prohibit its use," inventor Pablo Silva said.

Silva met Blatter at last month's FIFA executive committee meeting in Rio de Janeiro where they were introduced by Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona.

He told Reuters in an interview that Blatter said the universal use of the spray, with which referees circle the ball and draw a line the regulation 9.15 metres from it at free kicks, would depend on the International Board, the game's law makers.

LIBERTADORES UPGRADE

Silva, director of the firm 9.15 Fair Play Limit which is marketing the spray, said if it proved a success in the Copa Sudamericana, the CSF would upgrade its use to the Libertadores Cup, its top club competition, next year and the Copa America for national teams in Argentina in 2011.

"The product is the result of more than eight years' research and development," said Silva, an Argentine sports journalist. The small aerosol canister weighing 115 grams fits into a plastic holder attached to the referee's waistband.

"The work was carried out by a team of more than 15 professionals in a variety of areas who analysed more than 1,500 videos with matches from all around the world."

He said his idea was the result of much thought after he took a free kick in an amateur game with the wall a mere five metres away and the referee did nothing apart from sending him off for protesting.

Argentine media reports have said the spray is effective with an increase in the number of goals scored from free kicks since it was introduced, initially in the second division in Argentina. It is now used in the first division in Argentina and similar products are used in Brazil and Mexico.

Former international referee Horacio Elizondo, who took charge of the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, points out the benefits in a short video promoting the spray.

"The application of the aerosol is something systematic that does not hinder the continuity of the game," says Elizondo.

"It's a new tool ... to speed up the formation of defensive walls, which gives a good image and a sense of transparency for all involved."