Would Five Officials Instead of Three at Games Help MLS?

It certainly couldn’t make things any worse given the generally execrable level of officiating in MLS.

And it’s apparently under consideration, at least at the international level, according to the Associated Press:

GENEVA (AP) – The use of five officials at international soccer matches will move a step closer to reality when UEFA endorses the plan next week after successful trials at youth level.

UEFA’s executive committee will meet Thursday to approve a progress report based on
18 matches played with an extra official monitoring each penalty area. The extra officials help the traditional team of a referee and two assistants.

A decision on changing the laws of the game could come as soon as March, but the
extra referee’s assistants are unlikely to become a regular feature until after the 2010
World Cup in South Africa.

The new system was designed to maintain a human element in decision-making and
curb debate on the need for video replays and goal-line technology.

The use of additional officials has received glowing reviews since UEFA was invited to
run trials last March by world governing body FIFA and its rule-making arm, the
International Football Association Board (IFAB).

The trials took place at European Under-19 Championship qualifying games played in
Slovenia, Hungary and in Cyprus.

The fourth and fifth officials stand off the pitch to the side of their goal and are able to
communicate with the referee through headsets.

They are asked to spot fouls when players come together in front of the goal before a
free-kick or corner kick, and help rule on whether the ball has crossed the goal line. They also help referees determine valid penalty claims from dives by attacking players.

FIFA’s executive committee is expected to study the UEFA report when it meets Dec.
18-19 in Tokyo.

A decision on whether to introduce the five-official system rests with the IFAB – made
up of representatives from FIFA and the soccer associations of England, Northern
Ireland, Scotland and Wales – which is scheduled to meet in Northern Ireland next

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  • Joseph D’hippolito

    Five officials would be unwieldy. In some countries, like the U.S., it would make things worse because of the lack of overall quality of officiating.

    What needs to be addressed is the tremendous pressure clubs and national teams face, not only to win but to make money. This pressure, I believe, fuels much of the criticism about match officials (especially in countries where the sport has far firmer roots, such as England and Italy). Five officials will not solve the problems related to match fixing and outside intimidation.

    Of course, FIFA has no interest in examining such problems, not as long as the money keeps rolling in…

  • Inigo Montoya

    I don’t have an opinion about UEFA, but for MLS officiating the problem is not numbers. It’s quality.

    Five mediocre refs is no better than three mediocre refs.

    The MLS should up the level of professionalism. The league needs first to communicate to the refs what they expect in the flow of play and in application of rules. I have my doubts that most of the top office people even think about such things. Without it, tho, the refs aren’t the only ones at fault for lousy officiating.

    If they can establish clear expectations, they should bring the refs together, have them review video of MLS games and talk openly about what’s right and wrong.

    You can’t just bring these guys in part-time and expect it will all somehow work.