July 3, 2012

EURO Review (I): The "extra eyes" did not see everything

Having closed with a Spanish 4-0 gala at Kyiv's Olympic Stadium against the Italian "squadra azzurra", UEFA EURO 2012 has certainly proven the vastly rising quality of European football with respect of tactical and technical abilities featured by parts of the sixteen participating teams, has furthermore produced winners, who have made history, but plenty of losers as well - also among the referees. World of Football Refereeing will retrospect three weeks of high-quality football (refereeing?) concerning multiple aspects. 

The reviews will be split into different sections that will be published as we go along, starting today with a flashback on the additional assistant referees' appearances at this EURO.

The "extra eyes" did not see everything
Resulting from a decision made by UEFA in accordance with the International Football Association Board (IFAB) widely before the European Championship, it was the first international tournament for national teams ever executed with five match officials on the pitch. Additional Assistant Referees had been selected both as a means to encounter the ongoing discussion related to goal-line technology and as a support for the twelve teams that have acted in the past 31 matches. Their backing must have been thus big that Howard Webb and Jonas Eriksson strongly emphasized their pleasure about their attendance prior to the tournament. As UEFA's chief Michel Platini emphasized in several interviews given during the tournament period, a real technology is definitely not within sight, since introducing such a technology was "a historical mistake", so that the French is a decisive opponent of that: "I am totally against it. Let's have humans. I remain consistent. It's not a question of goal-line technology - it's the question of the beginning of technology in football. That I am totally against it." The answer on the question of whether this attitude is as astonishing as Platini's recently communicated plans to split 2020 UEFA EURO to twelve cities in twelve different countries may be anyone's guess.
Without any doubt, this experiment has led to ambivalent results. 

While there has been in general a good, but sometimes too restrained assistance provided by the additional assistant referees, they have produced mistakes of great moment - but one by one..
Great decision by R. Buquet (c) HKREF
The additional assistant referees were able to achieve their first successes already in the early stages of the competition, at least regarding the general perception of their performances. In the hottest phase of the opener match between Poland and Greece, immediately after the controversially debated and mostly as wrong considered sending-off to Papastathopoulos, Spanish additional assistant referee and UEFA Elite Development referee David Fernández Borbalán made a good and important call when he advised Carlos Velasco Carballo not to award a penalty for a potentially deliberate handball. A similar situation could be observed one day later, when Slavko Vincic of Slovenia made such a decision correct, too, when Denmark's Simon Poulsen clearly touched the ball with his hand merely as part of his natural movement so that it seemed to be no deliberate handball at all (see thread). 
However, the most significant and also most important decisions were made by Ruddy Buquet (FRA) and Hüseyin Göçek (TUR), since their perfect calls were of decisive importance: in the late first half of the clash between Germany and Portugal, Iberian defender Pepe made a fabulous shot that had touched the lower edge of the bar, before the ball slightly did not cross the goal-line. At this point of time within the game, it was a crucial call. The same counts for Göçek's correctly awarded goal to Italy after the ball scarcely crossed the line in the air (against Ireland at Poznán). A more obvious occasion than in GER-POR, but still a paramount example for the partial effectiveness of the additional assistant referees. Another important situation must be mentioned that occurred in the host nation Poland's second match against Russia. German First Group ascender Deniz Aytekin perfectly advised Wolfgang Stark that a very dangerous tackle from behind by a Polish defender - being in extreme danger to concede a goal - has been clean. A very important decision as well, which nonetheless may be no real counterweight to the mistake his colleague on the opposite byline made in the German team's second match between Croatia and Spain - a brilliant transition to the other side of the shield. 

Florian Meyer, actually a very experienced referee himself and joining UEFA Elite Group for quite a long time, had a fatal blackout in precisely this match. Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos jumped into a duel with Croatia's Mario Mandzukic "like a fanatic" (as Urs Meier analyzed it later), hit his opponent, while his studs were up (l.). A penalty and a dark yellow card would have been the adequate punishment - to my mind. To the surprise of the majority of spectators - and probably to Ramos himself - the German officials completely ignored this foul. Florian Meyer stood three metres away. The high pace of the situation might indicate a potential reason for this temporary loss of awareness, but no excuse. In addition, the rest of the German team did not show his best performance either in this match so that specially, regarding the missed penalty, the "red card" to the German team after the group stage was the only correct decision - but Stark was in good company. His colleague Björn Kuipers of the Netherlands was sent home as well. In both matches, Ireland - Croatia and Ukraine - France, he unfolded to have been a good choice for the tournament in general, but it was also obvious that he struggled with the same type of error in both clashes. In the second half of the first match, he neglected a very obvious penalty to Ireland. Keane was clearly fouled in the box, Kuipers' additional assistant referee Richard Liesveld should have definitely seen that, as he had a free area of vicinity. In the second match - in defiance of the special circumstances in Donetsk at this evening (heavy thunderstorms and rain) - the same mistake happened. This time, the foul in the penalty area was admittedly more difficult to detect, but with the aid of the extra eyes, it could have been feasible. Furthermore, he missed several ellbow offenses committed by strikers against e.g. goalkeepers. Moreover, it must be mentioned that Liesveld's performances as additional assistant referee had been conspicious before the tournament as well. After a wrong penalty advice in 2011 UEFA Europa League semifinal between Porto and Villarreal, he made a very important goal call in Basel - Manchester United in 2011/12 UEFA Champions League. But back to this EURO: it was not only Liesveld who was too fussy with that, but it must be stressed that in the whole competition, the extra officials showed lack of alertness or rather mere attention. Another striking example of that is the tie between Denmark and Germany when Carlos Clos Gómez missed an obvious foul (pulling) by German defender Badstuber right under his nose. It should have been a penalty to Denmark which could have meant Germany's out. 
Another remarkable scene occurred at the last matchday in Group A, when Swedish official Stefan Johannesson wrongly consulted his chief Eriksson to book Greece's striker Karagounis for an alleged dive in the box. However, replays clearly showed the defender carting out his leg. Johannesson stood ten metres away with free view and did not notice a penalizable act. Bad luck for the rest of the team which did not receive a third match in the competition. In the match itself, this wrong call had a certain impact as well. In the aftermath of this scene, Eriksson lost the control over the match and his until then sovereign line commenced to crumble.
There have been several other scenes one could lay emphasis on, which could have strengthened the ambibalent impression having received from these extra men at the goal-lines. The most significant situation however appeared in Group D.

Hungarian official István Vad's decision (in the match between Ukraine and England in Donetsk) that a Ukrainian shot had not crossed the line was wrong and resulted in a loss against the Britains - the co-hosts hence did not qualify for the K.O. stage. The decision itself resulted from an overseen offside position; the ball crossed the line by exactly seven centimetres. István Vad's head was - as replays clearly showed - not positioned on the goal-line, but a few centimetres too far in the area of the pitch. Another factor might have been the circumstance that - accompanied by the high pace of the situation - the socks as well as the shoes of the last defender, who made the clearance, were as white as the ball which could have provided optical difficulties. 
How dramatical this decision has obviously been regarded by UEFA and their referee committee is without any doubt displayed in the fact that the Hungarian team's head, Viktor Kassai, 2011's best referee of the world, had to leave the tournament after the group stage - despite of having been one of the most probable candidates for Kyiv's final. Personally, I think that in the teeth of what happened, Kassai stays the best referee on this planet endued with both an unmatched personality and tremendous charisma on the pitch. It is weird that UEFA reacted in this harsh, but surely necessary fashion by directly sending the Hungarians home, while the majority of the English team round Webb was allowed to stay for a third quarterfinal inset. Peter Kirkup made at least two crucial offside decisions in Italy - Croatia wrong, the result was that he did not appear in the rest of the tournament. He was replaced by Dutch assistant referee Sander van Roekel. On the one hand it might be considered unfair, as Kassai had to leave the tournament for a teammate's mistake, but on the other hand, a reasonable decision: UEFA has kind of unwritten law that they send four officials home (= eight officials stay with their teams). If UEFA had been consistent, they would have had to "dismiss" five officials including Webb. However, the mistakes were not even of less importance (but still of enough importance to send Kirkup home..) than e.g. Kassai's, but perhaps it would have led to kind of staff shortage, if only seven officials had stayed with their full teams. Van Roekel deserved that, he showed good performances, but arguing in the same manner could have meant that e.g. Collum could have replaced Vad. 

Summarizing the examples listed above, one has to underline that at least four officials did not receive a third match (also) due to their additional assistant referees' mistakes, some of them had even to go directly after group stage. During the last months - since the establishment of the additional assistant referees - there have been, according to UEFA, twelve remarkable goal decisions made by them and hardly any mistakes, it is tragic that the first goal mistake ever made by an additional assistant referee happens at a EURO. On the basis of that, one has every right to state that the experiment has failed, despite of many very positive examples at the tournament. Naturally, the real convenience "behind the scenes" of the AARs including their support for the rest of the team, advantages in communication etc. are difficult to estimate, but may not be underestimated. What will stay in the people's mind about the "extra eyes" at 2012 UEFA EURO is the not allowed goal to the disadvantage of one of the competition's host nations.
From my point of view, additional assistant referees cannot be the answer to the incidents at 2010 World Cup. Given and not given goals are black and white decisions independent from an official's interpretation. Therefore, Platini's statements are stupid as they display a president of one of the largest sports federations abdicating responsibility, shifting responsibility to these men and saddling them with a task that cannot be fulfilled by humans.


  1. okazuje się że ludzkie oko nie jest niezawodne i nie wszystko da się zauwarzyć i precyzyjnie ocenić.A zatem zapis video jest nieodwracalny władze INTERNATIONAL BOARD jest przeciwny zapisowi video tak jak równierz Joseph Blatter, w następnych wyborach władz FIFA jeśli znowu kandydat się nieutopi sam w korupcji jak MOHAMED BIN-HAMMAN i zaproponuje zapis video mimo protestu IFAB, to ma szanse wejśc na prezydenta nawet jeśli BLATTER zdecyduje się kandydować jeszcze

  2. Anonymous3/7/12 18:17

    technology win!

  3. Excellent analysis as always, and this is only the first part of a more detailed work.
    Well, my opinion is very similar to yours. We have to explain and make clear, first of all, what is the target that we want to obtain, by the use of additional assistant referees. If we consider this use as a help for the referee, especially in penalty area situations, well, it seems clear that it's a good choice. But if we want to use the additional referees, to solve the ghost goal problem, it's totally meaningless. We can't be sure to take always the right decision. Yes, in certain situations (also in this EURO) we have seen that the help about GOAL - NO GOAL was good, but always in not so much difficult situations to read. The only situation to read with attention was just the Ukraine-England one, and in this case also the AAR failed.
    It's clear that an AAR is always a man, a human, with a "normal" eye.
    So, concluding my analysis I think that the experiment of AARs is a good innovation, useful to cooperate with referees and also to prevent fouls in penalty areas. With the AARs presence, players are inclined (or maybe FORCED is the right term) to have a fair behavior in penalty area. Otherwise, when the referee is far, they feel free to do what they want. So for sure, this is the most important strong point of this innovation.
    On the other side, as I have already said, technology is the only possible solution for the ghost goal.
    Furthermore, we can't omit to say that sometimes also the AARs can do mistakes about fouls evaluation, handballs and so on, in the penalty area.
    If you ask me to go on with or without AARs, I would be inclined to answer: Let's go with, but not in the national leagues, it's ok to use them just in the most important competitions and tournaments, as is happening now.
    And for the ghost goal, only the technology.

  4. Let's see what IFAB decides today. If some kind of goal line technology is introduced, the AARs will become obsolete in my opinion. Their most important task was the goal-no goal decision, however they were not reliable enough in this respect (Vad killed that argument). Otherwise, it may be true that AARs in some situations help to "see more", but they are also an additional source for errors (we have seen that as well).
    In essence, I don't think that EARs are bringing considerable benefits. Therefore one should get rid of them and look for other means to help the referees.

    1. IFAB decided for both, goal-line technology and additional assistant referees today:

  5. A ja uważam że bez zapisu video ani rusz a skoro zapis nie jest brany pod uwage prze władze IFAB, to powinno się zrobić inne doświadczenie czyli że ten czip o którym jest teraz głośno służył sędzią do informacji czy gol jest czy niema a sędzia ASSITANT-ADITIONAL(BRAMKOWY)niechaj odpowiada tylko i wyłącznie za kontrowersje w polu krnymi bramkowym taka jest moja propozycja może wtedy takich błędów jak popełnił ISTVAN VADjr już nie będzie


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