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Get rid of the AARs

Most, if not all, members of the soccer loving public are probably aware of an extra pair of assistant referees on the field of play these days. These are the guys who stands near the goal posts and carry an instrument in their hand rather than a flag.

Their official title is Additional Assistant Referee (AAR) and their job is many-fold, which I will outline further down the page.

This was the brainchild of Michel Platini, the current Uefa president in the autumn of 2008.

Where he got the idea from is anyone’s guess.

What he hoped it would achieve is also open to interpretation.

When are these guys going to do the job they were appointed for?

It is being used by some major leagues, including Serie A in Italy, and the intention is to have them deployed to all major/premier leagues throughout Europe.

This new format is also supported by “old staring eyes” himself, former Fifa referee Pierluigi Collina, regarded by many to have been the best referee in the world during his tenure.

Well I have to take issue with these guys. The system is NOT a success.

Let me give you two incidents to highlight my opinion that, while they might be effective in their intentions, in reality the system is not working.

In a recent Uefa Champions League game between Glasgow Celtic and Juventus there were three officials – the referee, the assistant referee and the additional assistant referee within a 20m distance of some of the most outrageous pulling and pushing in the penalty area I have ever seen and none of the aforementioned officials deemed it necessary to take any action.

Now it wasn’t a once-off jousting between the opposing players. It continued every time there was a corner or free kick in or around the penalty area.

In another incident just last week in a Europa game between Liverpool and Zenit St Petersburg, Luis Suarez of Liverpool was clearly seen to stamp on the back of a Zenit player in the penalty area and right under the nose of the AAR. Punishment? Nothing.

I want to quote from the official Uefa document, which sets out the duties of the AAR and I will only give you the relevant ones.

  • “The AAR must not enter the field of play while the ball is in play but can do so during a stoppage to assist the referee to control the players when required to do so.”
  • “He must be active and move along the goal line to ensure he gains the best view/angle of any possible incident that he may be required to inform the referee of. He must not remain static.”

  • Information will be passed to the referee by means of the radio communication system. Should the system fail then the electronic beep stick (no flag attached), should be used to attract his attention.”
  • “The AAR will assist the referee to control incidents in and around the penalty area, particularly at free kicks and corner kicks. Prior to the match the referee and AAR should agree their specific areas of responsibility.”

  • “He must act in a preventative manner when holding and pulling offences occur within the penalty area and inform the referee immediately should the behaviour continue.”

The last paragraph is the most relevant. This is clearly not happening, which makes these guys redundant and a total waste of time and money.

Their duties are clearly set out and they are not performing. Then why have them?

It can also be argued that the referee has the final say. That’s true. Then if the referee is not going to act on their information, dispense with them and get back to basics.

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Happy Whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney

twitter: @dr_errol

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