Archive for February, 2011

Happy Anniversary IFAB

This month’s edition of FIFA WORLD has a very interesting article on the oldest international organisation in world football – the International Football Association Board which was founded in 1886 by the four British associatoions. This year the IFAB will celebrate its 125th birthday.

The world in 1886 was a very different place. The Statue of Liberty was soon to be erected in New York and an American pharmacist called Dr John Stith Pemberton had just started selling a new carbonated drink which he called Coca Cola.

The IFAB has remained for 125 years as the guardian of the Laws of the Game. There have been some changes in its structure over the years, most importantly in 1913 when FIFA became a member. but while the Board has embraced developments in the Laws over the years, it has provided the game with a stability against the demands of excessive change.

In 1891 the penalty kick was introduced while in 1912 goalkeepers were banned from handling the ball outside the penalty area and in 1920 a player was not penalised for being offside if he received the ball from a throw-in.

Today major changes to the Laws are not introduced without experiment and detailed evaluation to make sure they meet the needs of football.

The Laws must evolve to meet the needs of the modern game for example Law 11 Offside was changed in 1992 in the interests of attacking play so that a player level with the second last defender was now onside. Two years later goalkeepers were not allowed to handle back passes and the Golden Goal was introduced only to be scrapped in 2004.

Substitutes were first introduced in the 1970 World Cup and in 1995 three substitutes were allowed instead of two.

The fear that the game was becoming too violent resulted in the introduction in 1998 of the red card for tackles from behind which endanger the safety of an opponent. Later this was amended to include all tackles,

There are many examples of how the game has evolved and how the Laws have adjusted to keep in tune with the evolutions.

The highest profile matter at the moment is goal line technology and a number of companies have demonstrated their ideas on how to introduce technology without undermining the role of the referee. The successful technologies must send a direct signal to the referee, not pass it through a third person. The IFAB will discuss the results at its meeting in Wales next month.

It may be the elder statesman of world football but is still a vibrant, hard working and vital component in making football the global phenomenon that it is.

So it’s Happy Anniversary IFAB and here’s to the next 125 years.

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The Future is Asia

Education has been the theme in Kuala Lumpur over the past few weeks as the second part of the AFC Elite Education Seminar gets under way.

Courses have taken place for Elite Referee Assessors, Elite Referee Instructors, Fitness Instructors, Futsal Referees and Futsal Instructors

The first part was held in December 2010 as part of the preparation for the Asian Cup in Qatar in January 2011. Courses were held for Elite AFC Referees and Match Commissioners while there were also a ACL Champions League Workshop, a Local General Coordinator Course, a Seminar for Media Officers and a Club Licensing Course.

The coaches have also  been busy at the end of 2010, The Asian Coaches Year, with courses for Goalkeeping Coaches, Conditioning Instructors, Technical study Group members and Elite Coaching instructors.

There is no comparable educational event in world football and AFC is rightly very proud of its success.

The Elite Education Seminar is a major event in the AFC calendar and a major investment by the AFC in the future of Asian football.

Over the course of the Seminar over 500 instructors and specialists from all over Asia and beyond assemble in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I have been privileged to take part for the past three years and have witnessed at first hand the progress which has been made.

The results are tangible with improved performances by Asian teams in South Africa and at the same time excellent refereeing displays by the Asian trios. The AFC Asian Champions League is growing in importance and status and very, importantly for Asian football, is becoming financially stronger.

But the progress is not just in the professional game. Major investment is also being put into development programmes for grass roots through Vision Asia and the AFC Festivals of Football while young coaches and referees are developed in AFC Project Future. Again the progress has been dramatic.

Investment in education is an investment in the future and indeed “The Future is Asia.”

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Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Lanarkshire Referees Association. I am an Honorary Member of the association but it is a few years since I last attended a meeting.

It was good to catch up with old friends but what impressed me most was the number of younger referees among the 60 plus who attended. The membership ranges from FIFA referees to those who have just passed their entrance examination.

The meeting was very professionally run. Information was given to new referees on the minor grade support scheme and how they could get assistance in writing reports on match incidents.

Arrangements were announced about the forthcoming regional training day, organised for all grades by the SFA Referee Development Department, to be held near Edinburgh.

The minutes of the last meeting had already been published on the association’s website and so little time was taken up on administrative matters.

The first and main item was a discussion on Offside, taken by two of the Scottish FA Class1 referees. The members analysed incidents from the 2010 FIFA World Cup which had been prepared on a DVD by the SFA and issued to all associations in Scotland.

There is always a danger in such sessions that after an excellent discussion with different opinions expressed, no definitive decision is given. Not so here. The SFA Referee Development Department had issued notes on each incident to ensure the same message was being issued all over Scotland.

The incidents had been discussed last week at the top SFA referees’ training camp in Marbella, Spain, – another sign of the professional approach being taken in Scottish refereeing.

This professionalism, however, goes unnoticed in the sensationalism and acrimony which comes from the professional game.

There have been major controversies in Scottish refereeing in the past three months but the extensive referee development plans continue and will produce a new generation of Scottish referees.

The sad thing is that those at the top of Scottish football don’t seem to realise the excellent work which is being done!

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A testing time for technology

On Monday 7th February the 10 companies which think they have the acceptable solution to FIFA’s requirements for goal line technology will have the chance to demonstrate their product in Zurich and be assessed by EMPA, an independent Swiss research institution.

They will set up their system at FIFA’s Headquarters and will have to pay a hefty fee for the privilege but if they are successful the potential rewards will be great.

Companies which are expected to take part include Adidas/Cairos, whose microchip inside a ball system has been tested by FIFA before, plus Swiss watch firms Longines and Tag Heuer. The English Hawkeye System, which is used in tennis, is also expected to be in Zurich.

There are very strict criteria set for the systems:

  • The technology would apply solely to the goal line, and only to determine whether a goal has been scored or not
  • The system must be accurate
  • The indication of whether a goal has been scored must be immediate and automatically confirmed within one second
  • The indication of whether a goal has been scored will only be communicated to the match officials

The results will be reported to the Annual General Meeting of the International FA Board at Newport, South Wales on 5th March 2011.

Goal-line technology was put back on the IFAB agenda following a major refereeing controversy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when a goal by England midfielder Frank Lampard against Germany was not awarded.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, despite being a self-confessed advocate for human judgement, admitted it would be “a nonsense” not to reopen the file on technology following the World Cup incident and referred the matter to the IFAB.

UEFA President Michel Platini is strongly against the introduction of technology and is convinced his alternative system of an additional assistant referee behind each goal is sufficient.

“With additional referees you don’t need goal-line technology,” said Platini. “If you want to put goal-line technology in place, it will be for maybe one or two cases every five years. I want more justice but I want human justice, using human eyes.”

The Board will also receive a progress report on the UEFA sponsored experiment which will run until 2012.

No definite decisions will be taken on goal line technology but it is likely that successful systems will be further tested in future FIFA competitions.

Goal line incidents are relatively unusual but gain great publicity when they happen in high profile matches. The reality is that there are very few leagues which could afford to install these systems, especially when their use would be very limited. Also there are regular maintenance costs to ensure 100% accuracy.

The additional assistant system can also be very expensive, especially in continental competitions. Significant costs would be involved in bringing two additional officials from Australia to referee an AFC Champions League match in Iran for example or to bring additional officials from South Africa for a CAF competition match in Algeria.

Maybe we should just accept that football is a game where mistakes are made by all those involved – referees, assistants, players and coaches – and this is its attraction.

There are not too many post match arguments after a game of chess – there are plenty after a game of football!

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Players must know the Laws

The transfer window has now closed and although there was the last minute £50 million transfer of Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea and a £35 million transfer of Andy Carroll from Newcastle to Liverpool, the main item in the British media was the sacking of Sky Sports television pundit Andy Gray for sexist comments he made, albeit off camera, about the competence of assistant referee Sian Massey.

His co-presenter Richard Keys later resigned.

This situation brought into the open the old prejudices about women in football.

What right has Andy Gray to suggest that an assistant referee would not understand the offside Law just because she was a woman?

Sian Massey has gained her place as an assistant referee in the Premier League through top class performances in the lower leagues.

Many would suggest that as a presenter, Gray, reputedly paid £1.7 million per year, is the one who should know, not only the offside Law, but all 17 Laws, better than he does.

It also raises a bigger issue. Players should know more about the Laws than they do.

Players, paid in some cases hundreds of thousands of pounds per week, are ignorant of the Laws

Law 11 is an obvious case in point but many players do not know the difference between a direct and an indirect free kick or what is really meant by denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

A professional person such as a lawyer or a banker must know the regulations he or she must follow.

Why should football players be different?

Oh, and by the way, why should referees not learn more about the tactics of the game?

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