Platini: Ref experiment could change game

MONACO - UEFA's plan to experiment with five-man refereeing teams at Europa League matches this season could prove to be the most significant change to officiating for 100 years, UEFA president Michel Platini said on Thursday.

This season's Europa League matches - the rebranded UEFA Cup competition - will feature an additional assistant referee (AAR) positioned beside each goal, specifically to help the match referee judge whether players have dived in the box, fouled each other at corners, or if the ball has crossed the goal-line.

"Things have not improved in refereeing for more than 100 years. I am against video technology because that will take the human face away from the game, but this system will help the referee make the right decision," Platini told a news conference.

"The tests we have run in private and youth matches have been very successful. Players have stopped pulling shirts and cheating because they now know they can be seen. I am very optimistic this experiment will prove to be very successful."

The AAR will not have a flag but will communicate with the referee by microphone and headset.

A demonstration video shown to reporters at the president's news conference on Thursday showed that the position of the referee will change, at for example, corners, where he will have a better view of play from the right-hand side of the penalty area, while the AAR and, as before, the assistant on the line will aid his decision-making.

If the experiment is a success it is likely to be sanctioned by FIFA and the International Board, the law-making arm of FIFA, next March and be introduced into the game at large within the next season or two.

Platini, who has admitted "diving once or twice when I was a player," said the AARs would help banish simulation, or diving, from the game.

"It could be the most significant change in the way the game is officiated for over 100 years," he said. "The role of the AAR, or additional assistant referee is solely to help the referee - an extra pair of eyes besides each goal.

"It is not humanly possible for a referee to see the whole pitch and see everything that is happening at once." Platini added.

"One day players will give up simulating because referees will see them. For years players have cheated because the referees were not of a good enough quality.

"I am convinced if you have referees close by that will prevent players from simulating and players will take the right decision. I have always said better to have more referees than a multiplication of disciplinary procedures."

The draw for the Europa League will take place on Friday with the group stages of the competition beginning in mid-September.