Thursday, April 14, 2011

The pointless 5th official

At the start of the 2010-2011 Champions League campaign, UEFA confirmed that there would be two extra officials behind each goalpost as was seen in the Europa league the previous season. It was a move that was intended to give more support to the linesmen and the referee as there have been numerous times when match-changing decisions occur in the penalty area which most officials don’t see. This move was especially applauded by the individuals who are against bringing video evidence into the game.

Apparently this change was a successful one in the Europa league, and that was one of the main reasons it was brought into into European football’s most prestigious competition. UEFA said there would be “more eyes on the players” and it would benefit referees in making more precise decisions. As we are approaching the end of the 2010-2011 season, we must ask ourselves whether this move has been a good one thus far?

In my opinion, it has been a major flop. A week or so ago, during the first leg of the Chelsea vs Manchester United quarter final match at Stamford Bridge, United were leading 1-0 away from home. Chelsea were piling on the pressure to get a priceless equalizer during the closing stages of the game. At the very last minute Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Ramires broke through on goal and would have been one-on-one with Van Der Sar until Patrice Evra brought him down. No contact of the ball was made. It was a clear penalty right in front of that 5th official behind the goal (
click here). The decision wasn’t given and the game continued.

Thankfully, for us United fans, we escaped with murder on that foul (though we can go on about decisions in past United vs Chelsea games, but that’s not the point here). The point is there’s a serious question that must be asked by all football fans: what exactly is that official behind the goal’s job? Is he there just for goal-line decisions (which occur maybe only 4 or 5 times in an entire season)? Or is he there to make actual decisions and support the referee?

Correct me if I am wrong but so far this season, I cannot recall one game where those officials behind the goals have made any decisions whatsoever. Neither a positive, nor a negative contribution has been made by them. Nothing. If they are there just for goal-line decisions, then their job is pretty useless as he must feel left out half of the time just standing there on his own in the freezing cold waiting for a goal-line incident to occur.

On Wednesday night during Tottenham’s home clash with Real Madrid, there were 3 occassions (
click here) when Tottenham players went down for penalties which were all debatable and could have been given, but the referee didn’t give them. My problem with this issue is that the official behind the goal didn’t wave anything. He has no authority or power on the game and its decisions it seems. He is just standing there, looking curious; pretending like his role is important and isn’t making a single decision.

I don’t know if UEFA have put those guys behind the goals as decoration, to block the view of fans in the first few rows behind the goal or just to take up space on the field, because if their job is to support the ref then during these two major games I’ve just mentioned are examples that they are not doing that. The fouls are taking place before their very eyes and they aren’t refusing, supporting, or making any decision in the same way a referee or a linesman does. They seem pretty pointless to me.


  1. The way I see it the reason why uefa added those extra officials is because they're reluctant to use goal line technology. But as we saw this season those extra official haven't added anything to the game or made any crucial calls.
    We often see linesmen give fouls, interfere to tell the main referee of an infringement or some type of unsportsmanlike conduct on the field.
    I wonder what kind of jurisdiction or power this extra referee has for we haven't seen none so far.
    Goal line technology and video replay is used in many sports and brings a more fair sense to the game. Many would argue that it would take away from the natural free play of the game but I wonder, how many more "hand of god" would you like to see determine the outcome of a competition and have the governing body just sit there and do nothing about it ?

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