Rule-makers to consider extra referees proposal

NYON, Switzerland - Plans to introduce two additional assistant referees to monitor penalty areas will be put before soccer's rule-making body early next year, the European governing body UEFA said on Thursday. UEFA has experimented with the innovation at Under-19 matches in Slovenia, Hungary and Cyprus. It said it would now pass on its findings to its global counterpart FIFA for presenting at the International FA Board's (IFAB) next annual meeting in Northern Ireland from February 27-March 1. "We have a very positive opinion in terms of our view of the matter but it is not up to us to make the final decision," UEFA general secretary David Taylor told a news conference following an executive committee meeting. "The experiment was delegated to UEFA and it's now up to FIFA to take the matter on and prepare a report for the IFAB." Taylor, who served as the Scottish FA's representative on the IFAB before taking up his UEFA post, said the proposal could theoretically be implemented as early as July but added the board might ask for further studies. "Any changes made by the IFAB come into force on the following July 1 but we cannot say for certain if they will choose to change the law or not. They may wish to have further experiments first at another level. "There is also the question of whether it should be applied at only the top end of the game." Under the proposal, championed by UEFA president Michel Platini, the two extra assistants would be able to communicate with the referee via radio headsets. They would be able to offer opinions on goal-line decisions and potential penalties or diving incidents, but would not use flags or otherwise indicate their observations to the crowd. "The report presented to the executive committee today was very positive with very few drawbacks noted," Platini's special adviser William Gaillard told reporters. "There were some practical questions about the assistant referees being quite static for long periods of time but the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks with the referee able to make more accurate decisions while remaining the only decision maker." The IFAB comprises four FIFA representatives and four representatives from the British Football Associations, with a three-quarters majority needed for any amendment to the laws of the game. This year the board rejected proposals backed by the English, Scottish and Northern Irish FAs to use goal-line technology to help referees decide if goals had been scored. Both Platini and FIFA president Sepp Blatter have repeatedly said they prefer the idea of additional referees over technological solutions.