Probably the highest profile refereeing mistake in the FIFA World cup in South Africa was the failure of Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistant to award a goal to England in the match against Germany when the ball had clearly crossed the line.

This was a critical decision since it would have brought England level at half time after being two goals down and although Germany looked a much better team, who knows what could have happened in the second half?

Ironically in the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup in Germany earlier this week, France was denied a similar goal in their Group A match with Germany. A long range shot by Lea Rubio hit the crossbar and clearly crossed the line before bouncing into the arms of the German goalkeeper.

Unfortunately English referee Alexandra Ihringova and her assistant failed to notice it and co-incidentally, the match finished 4-1 to Germany – the same score as the match between Germany and England in South Africa.

The International FA Board has a Technical Sub-Committee which meets on a regular basis to consider the Laws of the Game. It does not have the authority to change the Laws but it can give permission for experiments to take place.

It met in Cardiff, Wales on 21st July and decided that the experiment of additional assistants should be continued until 2012 when a final decision will be made on whether it should be introduced on a permanent basis.

It was decided that permission should be given to the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF), the Mexican Football Association (FMF) and the French Football federation (FFF) to use the experiment in various leagues and competitions between now and 2012.

It also gave permission for the Asian Football Confederation to conduct the experiment during the AFC President’s Cup and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to conduct the experiment in various confederation competitions including the 2010/2011 UEFA Champions League.

This is the correct way to proceed. Clear guidelines will be issued on the duties of the additional referee and the communication system to the referee.

For an experiment to be approved and introduced into the Laws of the Game it must be tested in different football environments.

Some time ago there was an experiment in England of moving the ball forward 9.15 metres whenever there was dissent by the players about the referee’s decision. This proved relatively successful in England where rugby has this rule but it is highly questionable if it would be as well received in other areas where there is no rugby tradition.

Care must also be taken that experiments are not undertaken by some federations purely for novelty value. This has happened in the past when there have been requests for temporary field markings to be made by the referee spraying the 9.15 metre distance to be observed at a free kick or by wiring the referee up to a video referee in the stand who would inform him of any mistakes he had made after looking at television replays – and their communication would be broadcast live on television.

I have some reservations about how applicable the extra referee assistant system would be worldwide, even simply in terms of the cost involved. Research has already shown that it changes the movement pattern of the referee on the field and there could be problems if the additional assistant, the assistant referee and the referee disagree.

However, that is what experiments are for. This one must be monitored and assessed and the final results from all the federations and confederations involved carefully analysed.

The International FA Board meeting in 2012 will an interesting one.

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