Hodgson sounds cautious note on use of extra match officials

Fulham manager also warns over putting too much faith in video technology
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The Independent Football

The Fulham manager Roy Hodgson feels it would be "naive" to believe all of football's problems could be solved with the introduction of video technology or extra referees.

Uefa president Michel Platini's plan of having five match officials – an extra assistant referee behind each goal – has been trialled in this season's Europa League, but Hodgson has seen no evidence of a dramatic improvement in key decision making.

Fifa yesterday decided against introducing it for the World Cup but are to explore the issue further. Hodgson and Fulham have been on the wrong end of some controversial calls in this season's competition – they were denied what looked to be a couple of clear penalty claims away to CSKA Sofia and had two men sent off at Roma, with defender Stephen Kelly also dismissed in the home tie against the Italian club where a last-minute away goal denied them victory.

Hodgson, whose side host Sofia tonight looking to keep alive hope of qualifying from Group E, believes simply having someone look at a replay on a monitor would be no quick fix. "It is naive to think we would solve all of our problems with technology," the Fulham manager declared. "Technology is complicated, and the major question would be: what would it be introduced for? How many times? How long would the stoppage be? The questions are endless.

"What happens if the person who makes the decision can't decide? Sometimes I see hundreds of replays, and still cannot make up my mind. In cricket, they were trying to decide whether the ball had been grounded while trying to take a catch. It took 12 minutes and still nobody was the wiser."

Hodgson is not convinced the experiment of extra officials has made a great difference in the Europa League. He said: "I don't know what type of contact they have with the referee, but I have not noticed them. In the very, very important penalty area situations which have occurred, and there are four very clear ones where you think that extra officials could help the referee make a good decision, bad decisions have been made. Whether there has been communication and the referee has chosen to ignore it, or whether the people behind the goal have not seen it, I really can't tell.

Hodgson added: "If you are asking me from your personal experience, have you seen better decisions in penalty areas thanks to extra referees, I would say no I haven't."

The Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy is set to return tonight following a six-week absence with a knee problem. It is a welcome boost for the west London side, who have Erik Nevland, Paul Konchesky and Jonathan Greening all suspended, while Eddie Johnson, Seol Ki-hyeon and Kagisho Dikgacoi are not eligible.

"Danny Murphy will start, and it would be nice if he could play the full 90 minutes, but we are realistic," said Hodgson. "It is a long while since he has played. We might have to accept it does not work out for us over 90 minutes, but that is the plan."

Fulham are currently third in the group, with five points from four matches. However, victory over the Bulgarian side and then away to Basle could still take them through to the next stage.

Hodgson said: "We have certainly not given up hope, albeit in situations where a risk has to be taken with a player, we make no bones that we have always erred on the side of the Premier League.

"Having said that, it has not cost us too much so far and we are still in with a shout of qualifying."