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July 2021

We need two refs and two extra linesmen, as well as more technology

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By Cameron Wolfe

Back in 2008 Uefa introduced its extra officials: one behind each  goal line.

The extra officials were initially tested in European Under-19 qualifying competitions in 2008 before being trialled in the 2009/10 Europa League group stages.  Subsequently, trials were then expanded to include the 2011/12 Champions League competition and Euro 2012.

The officials do not have the authority to make independent decisions, and are intended to act as an aid to the match referee in goal-line and penalty area incidents.   So just two extra assistants who are there to aid the match referee but not make any major decisions.

I’m of the belief that these extra assistants don’t get to the heart of the problem that we have in football, in that officials just can’t keep up for the whole ninety minutes and they certainly can’t be in every part of the pitch every second of the game.

This season in EPL we’re all playing on a standard size pitch, which the Premier League Handbook defines as having a length of 114 yards (105m), and a width of 74 yards (68m).

What is interesting is to compare this with pitches in other sports and then look at how many referees they have on pitches of a similar size.

An NFL field is fairly similar in size and they have ten officials on or around the pitch: the referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, field judge, side judge, and back judge.

A further three additional officials are on the sidelines, two assistant referees and one fourth official.  So an NFL game has ten officials overseeing their game.

The NFL pitch size is set at 120 yards long by 53 yards wide. Slightly longer but also narrower than an EPL pitch.

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In the NHL has a total of two referees and two linesmen. They also have a team off the ice reviewing any disputed plays on video and an official who rules or overrules the referee’s decision.   The playing area is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide.

So they have four officials on the ice that’s only 200ft long.

In the NBA there are three refs one on the baseline, one near the sideline, and one near half-court.  The playing area is 94 feet long and 50 feet wide.

So do we need more officials to monitor the game to make sure that the big calls are the correct calls?

I’m sure we can all rack our memories and think of obvious calls that never were or given. Off the top of my head I remember the 2001 FA cup final where Henry should have scored or at least been given a penalty for a “save” by Henchoz.

Balls crossing or not crossing the line (which will be supposedly sorted out by the new technology that Fifa want to approve) are of course part of the problem – but only a part.

What we also need is to have two extra assistants so there are one each side in each half.  Surely between them they’d get all the offsides and all the fouls called correctly.

And how about two referees? One each half. Maybe the few out of shape referees wouldn’t have to run so far, so fast and again maybe. Just maybe the calls would be more accurate.

I haven’t forgotten about the fourth official we have. But apart from checking the subs and holding up the board when required and getting an ear bashing usually from both Managers for the whole game they don’t really help with the decisions.

In fact overall my view is that we need both the technology and the extra assistants, and another referee.

27 comments to We need two refs and two extra linesmen, as well as more technology

  • HR

    Exactly. Add into this an independent review body (possibly organized by the PFA) plus better training for officials and we’d have a much better system.

    It’s not the final word on the subject, though it would be a start.

    But try getting something like this through the cobwebbed minds of the 57 old farts the sport.

    Not in their lifetimes.

  • Gunner4evr

    That is why match officials thinks they are gods and can get away with blunders. Torres goal was offside.Ecen Cahill admitted it.When a lot is at stake,don’t be surprised these mo will deliberately cock up.You never know.
    The best way to deal with these error prone guys is to banish them them from the epl. Of course there must be guide lines to show severity of disciplinary action.
    With the stakes so high we must have a near faultless display from these guys in black.Otherwise if matches are decided by them,fans may as well stay away.
    The blundering linesman must be punished otherwise it will give the wrong signal.

  • Tram

    I wonder whether the number of pairs of eyes is the right question. The refereeing team, of whatever size, can only make one decision for each incident. With the best will in the world, with the finest quality and largest quantity of officials, sometimes that decision will be wrong. As things stand the wrongness cannot be reviewed. Sure the referee can ask his colleagues if they can add to his information, but that his hardly a review.

    Football is the richest sport in the world. They should pay for CCTV reviews, just like they have in much less wealthy sports. To stop the match getting fragmented, cap each team to three appeals per game, and give the ref discretionary power to call his own video review in other cases.

    The outcome would be much fairer games, and far more accountability of officials – perhaps the very reasons why the referee mafia will never let it happen.

  • nicky

    I’m with you 100%.
    You only have to study the reviews produced by Walter and his merry men to realise that trusting the human frailty of referees is no longer an option.
    Whatever is available now and in the future, by way of mechanical help, has to be the answer and if enough pressure is brought to bear the day will come when mistakes (deliberate or otherwise) can be a thing of the past.

  • GoonerHoot

    The theory here is correct however the truth is that when you have more sets of eyes making decisions on a playing field you get more variance in decisions. I base this on the fact that I grew up following Austalian Rules Football, a game played on an an oval field (170m long, 110m across on average. 18 players per side and a lot going on. The issue was simply that referee ‘A’ may see a rough tackle as fair and referee ‘B’ would pay a free kick. I might add that A.F.L has 3 field umpires. I have always maintained that Football is the most ‘pure’ field sport, down to the fact that there is only 1 ref in charge. Therefore only 1 interpretation of rules. Obviously as the Untold ref reviews have clearly pointed out the system is not up to scracth but I don’t think extra refs are the answers.

    Use technology where possible I say.

  • No! We do not need more refs – that is just more people to succumb to corruption and/or bias. What we need are fair refs and an open process for reviewing and promoting based on performance.

    Something like the ref stats on this site should be used objectively to track performance and make decisions on who is allowed to referee.

    I would set up a panel of refs, with a representative from each club to review every performance. The average scores should be used to rank the ref into a league table and only the top refs should be allowed to participate – with the best (least biased!) taking their place in the PL.

    Until we remove the opaque nature of refereeing assessments there will never be any fairness in the league(s).

  • Goona Gal

    @ Cameron, I forgot the extra ref’s were there. The extra linesmen was FIFA’s attempt to quash demand for genuine change. Goal line technology isn’t the most immeadiate change I would like to see in the game though. I don’t know what the best course of action on these things are, but it’s clear that in football the refereeing in the EPL at least, is poor and the early signs are that they aren’t getting better. Video replay and the ability for clubs to launch a petition/appeal to review after violent acts on the pitch which have been missed or dangerous tackles which have’nt been punished appropriately, would help. Technology could also maybe help in situations where players have been sent off for phantom tackles and replay shows that no contact was made or players have clearly dived, without radical overhaul. In knock out cup competitions, maybe the replay request can be limited to a certain number and the ref panel would be pitchside or something.

    It could be the fact that we have Stoke coming up, which focuses my mind on these things, but I think the current level of punishment for career ending tackles do not fit the crime. The Premiership is a place where players should be expected to raise the quality of every aspect of their game. I am not sold on any particular tech being the answer and if I thought the ref’s were doing an adequate job I might even advocate keeping things as they were, but things aren’t good or improving. The introduction of tech, would help now more than ever since the best the PGMOL has to offer is poor and on the brink of bringing the game into disrepute.

  • elkieno

    Holy crap, I didnt know there were that many refs/judges in nfl.
    in my home (sydney) we play Rugby League (not union!) and we used to have 1 ref on teh field, but now there are 2 refs one in tradiotnal spot and the other hanging around behind in case they break up field and illegal stuff or whatever. Plus a linesman on either side and the Video ref.
    thats 5 in the same size ptich almost.
    Dont know about Rugby Union its boring and you can have 100 refs, but they will always pass forward!!!

  • bob

    The NFL (US football) also allows two coach challenges and there is video replay for those challenges. If a challenge is won, the coach does not lose that challenge right. If a challenge is lost, the coach does lose that challenge right plus (I think)a loss of a down (1 of 4 downs to move the ball 10 yards to get another first down). The head referee views the video in tandem with a referee in an upstairs review booth. This is a standard part of the game and can and does add drama. It’s not necessarily insufferable, often is exciting as so much depends on it, and whether or not a coach exercises a challenge is something that fans and the TV/radio commentators add as another layer of drama/critique. It is part of the game and not an intrusion for most fans.

    In MLB (Baseball) the head umpire (or a consensus) of the four only umpires can initiate or otherwise decide to review via vido replay a home run or a foul ball that scored a run and re-set play if they determine it necessary. This has taken a lot of the outrage and crushed dreams and sense of despair that chronic bad calls used to create.

    Addicts of chronic disappointment, bitter lament, life-long cynicism and ref-induced heartbreak need not apply. This addictive low is an integral part of the managed product type best known as the Barclay’s Premiere League match experience. The PGMOL is the designated pusher, and rarely disappoints. Those who defend the interruption or delay of this supply line will often scream “do not stop the flow” (or some variation thereof). It is a tantrum and withdrawal symptom masquerading as a protecting a sacred tradition. The interruptions that already exist (wasting time, faked injuries, stretcher calls that result in miraculous sideline resurrections, Fergie time, bogus penalty kicks, etc. etc.) are not really interruptions but part of the flow. But video replay – and the THREAT of video replay – would actually cut down on the amount of “normal” interruptions that are considered part of the normal flow. Surely it is time to go “cold turkey” and give up the joys of unfair treatment and chronic depression. Believe me or not, there will still be a lot of grievances to talk about.
    Video review interrupts the steady drip drip of the supply.

  • bob

    p.s. Ah yes, I don’t think that the very notion or possibility of a Stoke would survive the implementation of full video replay.

    And, goal line technology is a very expensive way to avoid a small number of miscalls; but a very effective way of appearing to fix the problem of bad referring (and chilling dissent) while continuing to leave the continued control over the match – and thus, the delivery of the carefully-managed entertainment product – in the “reliable” hands of the PGMOL/Hives of Riley. (It’s also a bonanza to the companies that produce and supply and maintain the review system, and to those who decide on which companies are to get the contract.) If there’s any dissent about the limited scope of goal line technology, then there’s a built in 10-year delay: “well, we’ve already given you ingrates goal-line technology, and full video replay will take a long time to study and decide upon and may well result in a serious rise in ticket prices. And no one would want that, now, would one….” etc. etc. etc.

  • bob

    sorry, at 12:54 I meant: “Those who defend AGAINST the interruption or delay of this supply line…”

  • bob

    The “referee mafia” that you slate may act like a law unto itself, but it is hired by the PGMOL which is contracted out to some one or combination of the FA/FIFA. Perhaps there’s a sponsorship (Barclay’s) hand in this. In any case, I prefer the term “quality control department” to “referee mafia” to describe their function in the Apparatus. 🙂

  • mark

    There needs to be two refs on the field.
    I think this also prevents corruption as more folk have to participate in the corruption and this means that it is more likely that some will not join in and expose the corruption! A more open review process would also help!
    I think we could start with all penalties are reviewed. If the video evidence is clear that it was not a penalty then it is a goal kind. I don’t think we have to give teams challenges like in American Football.
    Goal line tech for the ball crossing the goal line ought to be used.
    I think these three things would help raise the level of refs getting the decisions right! But at this point one would have to say that getting the decisions right does not seem to be the desire of those in control of soccer.

  • bob

    Piggy backing on your last sentence, in the US, there is general and vocalized public approval – spoken by the game presenters and even the talk radio jocks – of precisely “getting the calls right” The vast consensus is that this is a desirable end. It trumps the minority complaints that “the game is long enough already” And, of course, there’s tennis where the decision on replay from the umpire’s chair is thatfast.

  • bob

    As for the boredom factor:
    During the match, while official video reviewing goes on, fans at home get to watch the available TV angles and get to come to their own conclusions; and, I think, that this available replay footage is shown on the stadium’s video screen(s) as well. It’s not at all that the fans who need/demand continual action and constant flow (which is a myth) are, god forbid, left to their own thoughts and conversations – while the re-view is going on.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The idea of team challenges for decisions has got to be the way forward for a number of reasons

    1. It is dooable now in the Premier division. All clubs have tv coverage of every game from a number of angles – no additional technology is needed.
    2. It won’t slow down play to any meaningful degree and all time taken up by the review process would be added on to the extra minutes in any case.
    3. The video footage should be shown on the stadium screens so that all fans and officials can be party to the facts on which the decision is based.
    4. Bias will be significantly reduced and refereeing decisions improved as officials won’t want to be shown up making bad ones.
    5. The original decision should stand unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.
    6. If the original decision stands the challenge is lost, if the decision is changed the. The challenge is retained.
    7. Challenges should be made by either team captain or manager.
    8. With this system in place there would be no need for anyone other than the team captain to approach the referee after a decision and anyone else doing so should be booked (I know that rule is there anyway but it is never enforced).

    Sorry but this is a hobby horse of mine.

  • El Gringo

    As for jayramfootball’s “more people to corrupt” theory: Surely it’s much hard (and more expensive!) to corrupt ten officials than just one. More chance of a decent person standing up for justice, or a drunk linesman blabbing down at the pub, etc. The more people involved, the more chance of transparency.

  • Stuart

    In a perfect world, we would have an official assigned to each player as they can also break the rules when the ball is at the other end of the pitch. This is not really feasible though so video replay is the next best thing.

    Anther factor is, players get subbed yet officials are always expected to do a full 90 minutes plus. The new player comes on completely like new and the official who has been running up and down for 60 minutes is tired (relatively speaking) and can’t keep up. Mistakes will always happen.

  • Stuart

    Re Tram @ 10.22

    Why would the game need to stop?

    Video replays can be carried out on the sidelines whilst the game continues and the ref can be advised to stop the game if it is proved there was an offence.

    Cap each manager with a maximum of 3 incorrect calls and unlimited correct calls and you have a decent and honest game for us paying fans

  • Shard

    I don’t know about the more refs bit, but am completely in favour of technology coming in. It’s not even ‘technology’ actually. It’s just a few cameras and tv screens. All of which is already available. What is lacking is the will to use it. I think the challenge system as suggested by many, is the best way forward. Of course some managers will use their challenges to break up play and waste time if possible. But it will still make for a better game than what goes on now.

    Though no one’s suggested it here, I do not want the clock to stop in order to fight against time wasting. I think one of the most beautiful things about football is the simplicity. Stopping the game clock will detract from the game in my view.

    However, while watching a match (India v Syria) recently, India were winning and wasting time and the GK got a yellow card for it. I just thought that maybe a simple rule change will do. Any time a player is wasting time, instead of giving them a yellow card and then proceeding with the game, maybe we should award the other team a free kick from that position. I don;t think GKs will be taking too long over their kicks if there was a chance that they’ll have to defend a freekick from inside their 6 yard box.

    Oh. But because I don’t trust referees. The responsibility for measuring time taken must go to a separately appointed timekeeper. And the same standards must be maintained for both teams.

  • colario

    Its not a good idea to compare stopping the game to consider a video replay with the 4 big American sports. They are programmed for stops which allow TV adverts to the home viewer.
    In football the concept of free flowing minimal stops is an important part of the game. This why football (soccer) on American TV is a ‘no gamer’ and means soccer cannot attract the TV money it gets elsewhere.

    There are stories of American TV comps wanting to break the game into 15 minute sessions with breaks between the sessions. This would attract advertizing and provide big bucks for football.

    The call for technology has come about because it is there and can go along way to resolve the question ‘Of what happened?’ When the action is quicker than the eye.

    Football has been plagued with ‘power controllers’ almost from day one. Remember Herbert Chapman being told to take down his 45 minute clock.(I don’t personnally, but you know what I mean.) So he replaced it with 12 hour clock!

    The controllers dont want to lose their control of the game and they know that to days technology will do just that.

    On refereeing I think the idea of a different referee for the 2nd half to be a good idea as the game is very fast and and the maximum age of a ref has been raised from 45 to 50. Fresh legs might improve the standard of refereeing.

  • none

    I dont think that more refs or technology is the answer.

    More refs just mean more people not making a decision. We have seen this with games in the CL with the refs with the magic wands doing nothing. Even if they shoved them up their asses it might prove more insightful for them and more entertaining for the fans.

    As for the replays/goal line technology. I believe they dont play video replays in the stadiums down to the fact that it could incite the fans to violence. Goal line technology isnt really as helpful as it suggests. If you look at Englands two misadventures in FIFA/UEFA competitions
    World Cup it could have been shown that England scored. Proof that the technology is needed?
    However, the Euros showed that Ukraine should have had a goal as it was behind the line.
    But, when play was pulled back further the player was actually in an offside position when the ball was played, so effectively the linesman’s cockup evened itself out. Having goal line technology would have given the goal.

    I think the answer for the EPL and CL is for greater transparency and accountability. The referee’s report should be published as well as what the assessors judgement on the referee. That way we know what the referee has seen and missed and what they are being judged on.
    Failings can then be highlighted and we are all aware of the problem.

    Its ok, I know I live in a dream world. The FA isnt a public body and cannot be required to publish any information via a Freedom of Information request. I think the only way to compele information from them would be for the individual players to request information via the Data Protection Act and I cannot see that happening anytime soon.

    All I can say is viva la revolution as at present something is very wrong in the state of Denmark.

  • Finsbury

    Why just make a comparison with American sports?

    Did no one but me watch any Hockey during the Olympics?
    Similar game. Each half is thirty minutes, played at a faster pace.

    Did the aid of video slow the game down, ruin the tournament? No.
    Will FUFA continue to make fools of themselves with transparent rubbish like an extra official? Yes.

  • nicky

    You advocate for greater transparency and accountability.
    With respect, neither rectify the situation at the time of occurrence, which is the whole object of the exercise. All it would do is to identify a mistake by the referee and too many would award him punishment.
    It’s got to be mechanical aids of some sort AT THE TIME, surely?

  • Finsbury

    Nicky I’m confused. Was your gran cleaning the emirates back in ’42?

  • nicky

    She says you are trying to catch her out with your trick question. In 1942 she was a young lass in the ATS (look it up as I had to).
    She moved from Highbury to the Ems as one of Wenger’s Wenches and is still there, Harpic, Squeegee and all.
    She says to tell you some of her best moments were in your Park, particularly after dark! Cheeky!

  • Finsbury

    Your gran was happy to prowl the parks at night? They don’t make ’em like they used to do! It’s all gone to pot. We’ve never had it so bad.