UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina explains the background as the UEFA Executive Committee prepares to discuss introducing goal-line technology in UEFA competitions.
Why is UEFA looking at implementing goal-line technology?
UEFA is constantly monitoring ways in which it can improve the matches taking place in its competitions. I can tell you there has been a long internal consultation process regarding goal-line technology (GLT). For years, we have been analysing hundreds of matches, gathering data on a variety of situations during games. As you know, at our request, in 2012 the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the introduction of additional assistant referees (AARs) to increase the officials' visibility and control of the penalty area. This system has worked very well and provided clear benefits. At the same time, we have followed the evolution of GLT, which is complementary with the AAR's job. As a matter of fact, we have already seen that in Italy's Serie A, where AARs and GLT are used in perfect harmony.
Why are you making a decision on this now?
This did not happen overnight. It was well over a year ago that UEFA President Michel Platini proposed that we investigate the possibility of having goal-line technology working side-by-side with additional assistant referees to further improve results on the field. Mr Platini told us at the time that the opinion of the Referees Committee would be decisive for the introduction of GLT at UEFA competitions, and he is on the record saying he was always open to the idea of GLT if the referees felt it was a good solution. Regarding the specific timing, we are comfortable for the Executive Committee to make the decision now, because our review of the process has just concluded, and we also feel that with UEFA EURO 2016 around the corner, it is a good opportunity for UEFA to introduce GLT at a big tournament.
Does implementing GLT mean that AARs are now not relevant anymore?
The additional assistants' main task is not to control the goal line and decide whether a ball has crossed it. Rather, they are responsible for monitoring everything that is happening in the penalty area overall, aiding the main referee in making important decisions in the box. Of course, the AARs try to do their best relating to goal-line decisions as well, and what we have noticed is that in order to be prepared to judge goal-line incidents, they need to focus on the goal line before the ball arrives… therefore, they can miss something occurring at the same time in another place in the area. This may reduce the effectiveness of the assistance they are expected to offer the referee. With goal-line technology, the additional assistants are released from this demanding task, and can focus exclusively on the control of other incidents on the field.
How do you evaluate the impact of additional assistant referees (AARs) to date?
The penalty area is the most crucial zone of the field. Actions there have a decisive influence on matches. The density of players, especially in situations like free-kicks and corner-kicks, makes it impossible for a single pair of eyes to take control of all that happens on the numerous set-piece plays every match. The aim of implementing the AARs has simply been to give the referees support in controlling the most important incidents on the field of play. Many people in the media and general public may not appreciate all that AARs do during the game, because these officials do not have a flag or a whistle, but it is a fact that they have been crucial in helping make the right decisions at the right time during our matches.