Football: Video to aid professional referees

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The Independent Online
THE PREMIER LEAGUE confirmed yesterday it hopes to become the first in the world to introduce full-time professional referees, from the start of next season. It is also considering using video evidence during matches to clarify decisions over disputed goals.

Philip Don, the League referees' officer, said a small group of professional referees would be formed by next summer. "This is aimed at enabling the referee to do his job better, possibly without the pressure he has at the moment," he said.

Fifa, football's world governing body, has approved Premier League experiments with new technology and has been in regular consultation about the proposals.

Referees who currently officiate at Premier League matches have had to work their way from local football leagues to the top of the game, monitored along the way by the Football Association. Those at the top level of the game have been chosen for their experience and skill, but their trade is still not professional. Referees in the Premier League receive a pounds 375 match fee and for most the job is a sideline activity alongside a conventional career.

When professional referees are introduced in England - officially the idea is still at the planning stage, but there is little doubt it will go ahead - they will be full-time employees, with salaries estimated at pounds 40,000 to 50,000 a year. The positions will be offered in the first instance to the current batch of leading referees.

Paul Durkin, England's refereeing representative at the World Cup and with years of experience at the highest level, said yesterday: "I would be very interested to see what is on offer. Perhaps if we were full time we would have time to be physically and mentally better prepared."

Fifa has been cautious in the past about letting leagues use video evidence or technology to make refereeing decisions because it believes the authority of officials could be undermined. It is understood, however, that the Premier League has been given clearance to experiment with electronic equipment capable of settling goalline disputes, although it is unlikely to be in place for the start of next season.

Durkin said: "I've got no objections at all. If the modern technology is going to make the referee's job easier, then I'm all for it. It does have to be for a matter of fact, like whether a ball has crossed the line, and not to take away the opinion of the referee on decisions."

Television evidence has been used before to rule on domestic football disputes. In 1994 the German football federation ordered a match between Bayern Munich and Nuremberg to be replayed after television showed a referee had made a mistake in awarding a goal when the ball had not gone into the goal. The decision was taken after the match, when video evidence was reviewed.

The Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, said yesterday he supported the idea of professional referees. "I think that's a good step forward," he said. "I think with the money being generated in football, we should be looking to advance the refereeing system and also standards." He added: "The technology is another thing. How many times is technology going to be used to decide if the ball is over the line?"

These and other matters are still to be decided: such as who will sponsor referees' kits to pay for their salaries, as the Premier League may seek to suggest. A firm of opticians, perhaps? THE GOALS THAT GOT AWAY


England 4 West Germany 2

"Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over..." We might never have heard this wretched phrase had the Russian linesman, Tofik Bakhramov, disallowed England's third goal. Geoff Hurst's shot hit the bar bounced on the line and into a million arguments since.


Manchester United 1 Milan 0

Even England's World Cup win irks Denis Law less. Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, United, the holders, seemed to be taking the game into extra- time when the Scotland international stabbed the ball goalwards. To this day he maintains: "It was a good six inches over the line."


Bulgaria 1 Romania 0

Romania were good enough to beat England in France 98 and might have prospered two years earlier if Dorinal Munteanu's shot, which cannoned off the bar and bounced beyond the line, had counted. Instead this result ensured they were the first team out of Euro 96.


Bolton Wanderers 0 Everton 0

The first game at the Reebok Stadium and one that has grown infamous in Bolton. Nathan Blake bundled Gerry Taggert's header over the line but referee Stephen Lodge ruled otherwise. Later the cost was revealed: Bolton were relegated on goal difference, behind Everton.


Bayern Munich 2 Nuremberg 1

Struggling Nuremberg lost when the referee decided, despite protests, that Thomas Helmer had scored for Bayern. Television evidence showed the ball had not crossed the line and in an unprecedented move, the German FA ordered the game to be replayed: Bayern won 5-0.