Sunday, October 14, 2007

Two-Referee, Four Official System

There is no single more important position on the field in any given game than that of an official, whether it be the center referee or his two assistants. Officials have the power to influence the result of any game with the decisions they make and their authority is final.

As a certified referee myself, I undertand how difficult it is for the man in the middle to do his job, and the same goes for the linesmen. It's impossible to officiate a game in which both teams involved are happy; every decision is questioned by either players or coaches and usually both.

In watching the Manchester United-Wigan game last weekend, there was one clear penalty waved away by referee Mike Riley and another that probably should've been a penalty but wasn't called either. Mr. Riley, to his credit, was at least in a decent position to be able to make an informed decision but when you watch other games, there are plenty of situations where the center referee either gives or denies a penalty kick when he doesn't have the proper viewing angle to make the right call, yet he makes a decision anyway because he has to.

The officials are professionals in other walks of life, yes, they get paid a good amount at the high levels to do games, but that's not their only job. These are middle-aged (mid 30's-mid 40's) men who aren't always the most physically fit individuals, yet it's their job to keep up with some of the fastest, most skilled athletes in the world. It's not fair for the teams involved in any given game or their fans to possibly have a game or a season decided by someone who's simply not able to be in the best position they should be to do their job. If the National Hockey League has enough sense to use two referees (and two linesmen) for a game that's even faster than soccer and takes place on a shorter, narrower playing surface than a soccer game does, surely soccer should use two referees as well.

This debate has been discussed, though nothing serious has ever come out of it, by the powers-that-be at FIFA and other major governing bodies for years now, and it's time something was done about it. Does it really make sense to ask one 40-year old to run up and down the field with men half his age? Referees run the diagonal system to cut down on the actual area they have to cover, but how often do you see a referee out of position when he has to make a call, yards away from the action and screened behind other players? Playing high school soccer, I can't tell you how many cheap shots and the like that have no place in the game occur behind the referee's back, when he's doing his best to keep up with the play.

Each referee would be responsible for his half of the field, more or less, with as little overlap as possible in between. Less ground to cover would lead to better positioning for the two referees and allow for a better called game. The linesmen's duties would remain the same (determining on/offside, goal kicks and corner kicks, and signaling for fouls and misconduct that the referee may not have been able to see).

The two-referee system would make for a fairer game for all parties involved, including the officials themselves. I'm tired of crucial decisions hinged on where the referee was positioned because chances are it wasn't the right spot to make the proper call. Middle-aged men have no business running up and down a 110-yard field with professional athletes half their age; they need help.


tyduffy said...

I think you are right. Though, I would probably be more in favor of just having two more assistants by the goals rather than a second referee on the pitch.

YankeeRam said...

They not only need some type of goal line technology to help out the linesman, but something akin to video review. Whether its after the match or not. I'm not real hot on having two refs on the pitch, they might impeded the action instead of helping it.