The Europa League kicks off tonight with two extra match officials, one behind each goal. But what on earth are they going to do?
This is Uefa President Michel Platini's brainwave to cut out diving. He thinks "two extra pairs of eyes" will beat the cheats. Platini said recently: "For years players have cheated because the referees were not of a good enough quality.
"I am convinced, with the extra officials, that if you have referees close by it will prevent players from simulating and they will take the right decision." In other words, the answer to the problem of "referees of not good enough quality" is two more "of not good enough quality".
Q. Where will they stand?
A. The "additional assistant referees" – shortened to AARs (careful how you say it) – will patrol the area behind the goal and to the goalkeeper's right, getting in the way of the crowd, photographers, etc. They are only allowed on to the pitch when play is in the other goalmouth, so they can get a better view – and have a chat with the goalie. They can also give added protection to the referee when he leaves the pitch to a chorus of boos at the end of each half. And help him eat up the sandwiches.
Q. So can they overrule the referee over a penalty?
A. The referee still has the final say, so the answer is no, they can only give their advice, like linesmen do currently when they wave their colourful flags frantically. Only the AARs do not have colourful flags to wave frantically. They have to talk to the ref by radio link, which means they all have to be the same nationality, including linesmen and the fourth official – who is still called the fourth official although logically he should now be called the sixth official.
Q. Has this system been fully tested?
A. No, unless of course you consider a few matches last autumn at under-19 level proper testing. This will be the first time it has been tried out by professional footballers. But Platini wants to steamroller it through Uefa competitions and intends for the scheme to be used in next season's Champions League and Euro 2012. It's only a matter of time before it's in the Premier League.