Football's lawmakers, the International FA Board (IFAB), has approved the extension of the experiment with additional assistant referees – tested at UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying matches last autumn – at its annual general meeting in Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland.
"After having received a report on the experiment involving additional assistant referees conducted during UEFA U-19 European Championship qualifying tournaments in October and November 2008, the members of the Board gave permission for the continuation of FIFA's experiment with additional assistant referees, this time in a professional league," a statement said after the meeting on 28 February.
Positive feedback was forthcoming from many quarters after the experiment at mini-tournaments in Slovenia, Hungary and Cyprus. The initiative involves – in addition to the match referee and two assistant referees on the touchline – two extra assistants placed behind the goalline with the mission of focusing on incidents which happen in the penalty area, such as fouls or misconduct.
Founded in 1886
The IFAB was founded in 1886, and comprises The Football Association (England), the Scottish Football Association, the Football Association of Wales, the Irish Football Association (Northern Ireland) and world football's governing body FIFA. Each of the four British associations has one vote apiece, while FIFA, which represents its 204 other member associations, has four. A three-quarter majority is required for any proposal to be passed.
With respect to Law 11 (Offside), the IFAB amended the wording of the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines, clarifying the situation where a defending player leaves the field of play, placing an attacking player in an offside position. Any defending player leaving the field of play for any reason without the referee's permission will be considered to be on his goalline or touchline for offside purposes until the next stoppage in play.
The IFAB agreed that, provided they behave in a responsible manner, one person should be permitted to remain in the technical area and no longer be required to return to their position on the bench after conveying tactical instructions. The measure has been taken to avoid unnecessary conflicts between fourth officials and coaches or other occupants in the technical area,
The procedure has also been clarified on players taking part in penalty shoot-outs if one team has a greater number of players than their opponents at the end of the match. In such a situation, the Laws of the Game now state that this team must reduce their numbers to be equal with that of the opposition. In order to clarify further the process, the following wording has been added: "Any player so excluded may not participate in kicks from the penalty mark."
A proposal to extend the maximum duration of the half-time interval was withdrawn, while the IFAB agreed that a proposal to increase the maximum number of substitutions in the event of extra time should be discussed by the relevant FIFA committees. Next year's IFAB annual general meeting will take place from 5 to 7 March in Zurich, Switzerland.
Click below for details of the experiments with five match officials at UEFA European U19 Championship qualifying games:
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