UEFA’s goalmouth officials — Fighting fire with fire

By Michael Owen

Uefa

If you were to ask football supporters across Europe about the current standard of refereeing on the continent they’d most likely tell you it’s the worst they’ve ever seen. And they wouldn’t be far wrong.

It might be that fans are becoming less tolerant of bad decisions as the cost of tickets increases, or it may just be that fans are looking at past football officials through rose-tinted glasses, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a football fan in Europe who would openly suggest that the standard of refereeing at the top-level is anything better than poor.

It begs the question: what are the UEFA and FIFA officials going to do about it?

For all of their talk about putting fans first it’s very rare that they act upon concerns from unhappy supporters. In fact those at the top have often — and justifiably — been accused of living in their own world of corporate dinners and football freebies, a world apart from that of an everyday football fan who hands over hard-earned cash to see the standard of refereeing deteriorate year-on-year.

But fear not, UEFA came up with an inventive, a solution to all of Europe’s officiating problems: adding two extra officials at either end of the pitch to help make tough decisions that the referee and linesman may not have been able to see.

Of course with this being such a new system it couldn’t be thrown straight into use across the continent. No, instead UEFA decided to trial their ‘revolutionary’ idea in their second-tier competition, the re-branded UEFA Cup.

The first question has to be: why the Europa League? UEFA have attempted re-brand the competition with a new name and slightly-altered system, hoping that clubs will once again take the competition seriously rather than see it as just another competition to further congest their fixture lists. So why on earth would it be used as a proving ground for the weird and not-so-wonderful when they’re trying to improve its image?

Surely it would have been a much better idea to try it out in reserve and youth football before implementing what has now proved itself as an ineffective system in a top-level competition that is watched by millions of fans around the world?

What is even more distressing is that only this month those at the top of the football ladder have once again rejected the use of technology, in this case a goal-line system, which would aid match officials to no end. Instead Blatter and Co. prefer to ensure ‘human error’ remains a part of the game. It is a ridiculous concept, especially when one considers the amount of money that passes through the football industry in this day and age.

If any other sector had the chance to sure-proof their trade to ensure no wrong decisions were made, they’d jump at the chance, but the governing bodies are seemingly stuck in the past, getting paid a fortune to brush aside what would be extremely useful technology without even a second thought.

It begs the question of how much these extra officials are being paid? Most referees at the top-level get a good salary and surely the officials added at either end of the pitch are getting paid a fairly handsome amount too. A television screen near the fourth official and some cameras would surely cost considerably less over the course of the season? Surely the money could be better spent on community projects such as making tickets for top games more attainable.

One would hope that sooner or later those running football will realise that video technology can only serve to improve the game, ensuring correct decisions so that fans and teams alike no longer leave grounds feeling that, once again, they have been let down by the officials.

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