Uefa keen on captain's role in reducing dissent

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Uefa, European football's governing body, is considering copying rugby's lead by allowing only captains to talk to referees during games. Uefa spokesman William Gaillard admitted that the current situation is becoming "dangerous" and believes captains should take more liability for the game's direction.

"It's common in rugby to call both captains and say 'cut it out, the game is not taking the right course and it is up to you'," he said, adding that Uefa is concerned at the breakdown in relations between officials, players and managers, particularly when the disputes result in violence at amateur level.

"What is really worrying is what is happening in the lower leagues," he said. "Retaining and recruiting referees is already difficult and without referees the game will descend into anarchy."

Gaillard disagreed, however, that the quality of refereeing had deteriorated. He said it was the same as it had been for "a century and a half" and that errors were still rare.

David Elleray, the former international referee, concurred with Gaillard and pointed to the increased scrutiny officials are under thanks to television. He does not, however, think officials should be exempt from criticism, as long as the criticism is measured and in context.

"I think it would be sad if we said that you can never comment on a decision or say a referee made a mistake," said Elleray. "We comment on players making mistakes - for example, [Louis] Saha missing the penalty [against Celtic]. It was a crucial error but he didn't deliberately miss it, and it doesn't mean he is an incompetent player.

"But if the referee had made a similar error in that game there would be questions about his integrity, judgement and competence.

"It's what is behind the criticism, and the nature of the criticism, that is damaging for referees and football, not the criticism itself."