Blatter hints at additional officials

JOHANNESBURG - Additional assistant referees could officiate at next year's World Cup finals in South Africa, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Monday.

Blatter, giving a hard-hitting keynote address at the Soccerex business conference, also said that FIFA would re-consider the organisation of the qualifying competition for future World Cups and could end the current play-off system.

"Match control is now on the agenda. How can we avoid the cheating handball situation we had in that game between France and Ireland for example?" said Blatter.

"I think there should be some additional (assistants) ... if they can see or not see."

He said the issue would be discussed on Wednesday when FIFA's executive committee hold an extra-ordinary meeting. If FIFA decide to go ahead with the plan, it will almost certainly be approved by the law-making International Board next March in time to be adopted at the World Cup which starts in June.

Ireland have asked to be considered as the 33rd team in the World Cup finals following their controversial elimination by France earlier this month and the request will be discussed in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Blatter confirmed he had spoken to French striker Thierry Henry following the handball incident that led to the decisive goal in the playoff against Ireland and told him that although he understood why he did it, he did not condone his action.

As always, Blatter ruled out the use of technology or video replays to assist the referee but said that the committee would discuss the use of additional referees behind each goal.

The system is currently the subject of an experiment in the Europa League.


Blatter said that the issue of what he called match control, had to be considered afresh by the executive committee.

"Everyone is asking what is and isn't fair play. When we see a player using his hands, well that is cheating," Blatter said.

"There is a lack of respect and discipline from the players because they are cheating with the hand and shirt-pulling and diving, this is human beings trying to get an advantage.

"It is not good and we have to fight against it. We have only one man (the referee) on the field of play who can intervene for the time being, with two assistants, but perhaps he will have more in the future."

He also said that qualifying for the World Cup had become so important that at times it felt there was "too much at stake" on everyone to reach the finals.

As a result, FIFA will re-consider the future of playoff matches to determine which countries qualify.

"There are different formats in different continents, but if it comes down to one final play-off match to decide if you are in or out, this should not be the spirit behind the World Cup.

"We have had problems in this last round of playoffs, the match in the Stade de France, the additional match that had to be played in Khartoum between Egypt and Algeria.

"There were problems in the South America/CONCACAF play-off. It comes down to the final match if you qualify or not.

"There is so much pressure on players, coaches, and referees, or presidents. To terminate the qualification for the World Cup on one match only is not right and that'