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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Does football need a fourth official?
Do you agree with Fifa president Sepp Blatter's plans to introduce a 'penalty box official'?
Fifa president Sepp Blatter announces plans to experiment with a 'penalty box official' following widespread criticism of refereeing standards at the World Cup.

Is a fourth official the answer to football's troubles?

The mistakes from referees and their assistants throughout the World Cup have prompted Fifa to put forward ideas to eliminate crucial errors in and around the penalty area.

The plan is to situate the official behind the goal, meaning that the assistant referees can concentrate purely on offside decisions.

Critics of the scheme say that standards would be boosted by the introduction of video replays for contentious decisions, while others contend a fourth official would undermine the referee's status.

What do you think of Fifa's proposals?

This debate is now closed - A selection of your e-mails appear below.

Forget Nike, Adidas and Umbro, this World Cup should have been sponsored by Speedo with the amount of diving we've seen! I'm all for a forth official and even video replay if it stops the cheating we have seen.
Jason Mitchell, Canada

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A fourth official will not necessarily reduce refereeing errors
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David Tuer, South Africa
Rely on replays not humans; they make mistakes, replays don't. If replays were used more often then at least players might realise they can't get away with diving, fouling, shirt-pulling and vile behaviour. The game would benefit from this sort of overhaul.
James, England

Perhaps football should go down the same road as rugby and use video to help with suspect offside decisions too.
Colin Price, UK

The use of a fourth official will not necessarily reduce refereeing errors but it will destroy the momentum of a game to have continual interruptions.
David Tuer, South Africa

The beauty of football is that it is universal. It can be played by kids and adults in the local parks, beaches or school yards. Unless rules are introduced that can cover all levels of the sport then they should not be contemplated.

The use of video replays is obviously not practical at all levels so although it may sound like a good idea it then detracts from the worldwide appeal of the game.
Brian Renfrew, Scotsman in USA

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As long as it is well thought out, it will not affect the flow of play
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Olubunmi Sowande, Nigeria
Dear Fifa: Football was created long time before TV was born. Afterwards you took huge advantage from it for spreading soccer around the globe and earning so much money. But now you tell us that it is not suitable for football to use it in order to better refereeing decisions. You say this is just a game... of course, this is a game played by 11 against 11.

Referees and linesmen are not players but judges controlling fair play rules. We do not care if there are one, two, sixty referees or a computer software ruling the game. We'd just like to see 22 players fighting for winning the game by using their athletic and football skills, without incompetent officials affecting the final result. Are we asking for too much?
Juan M Roth, Spain

Cricket, American football, rugby; these are all sports that now employ video replays to help make crucial decisions. The truth is that by having more cameras, and as the technology gets better and better, the more we will be able to spot the refereeing mistakes as we sit at home and watch the matches on TV. So why not use this technology to our advantage?

As long as it is well thought out, it will not affect the flow of play at all. It could be as simple as a phone call from a 'panel' of officials to the 4th official, telling him of the correct decision. Also, I think it can help cut down the number of 'simulation' offences, which I believe are ruining the beautiful game.
Olubunmi Sowande, Nigeria

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If any laws need to be changed, then clearly it is with offside
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Woll, England
About time. I really do hope they bring in fourth TV/video official. But I hope it does not have to be used too frequently, if they are not careful the video ref could really kill the pace of the game.
Kim, New Zealand

Having a fourth official behind the goal post will be a waste of time and having another person to make errors. The best and only solution is to have monitors that the referees are allowed to look at to make a clear and good decision. These monitors will show replays and the referee will be allowed to change or make his decision base on that.
Moses,, Liberia/United State

Until it has been tested and tested thoroughly it would be premature to make any predictions. A better course to set is for players to be left in no uncertain terms that blatant cheating will not be tolerated. Fifa missed one or two golden opportunities to send a message on this but blew it this time. Maybe from now on...?If any laws need to be changed, then clearly it is with offside. I'd do away with it completely, or at the very least make it so that defences wouldn't be able to play for it by it's very interpretation.
Woll, England

I watched an Italian Cup match between AC Milan and Inter at San Siro during their "two referees" experiment a couple of years ago.All it did was give the teams two people to argue with instead of one, and it just held the game up even more, and that is all this new proposal will achieve.Even Collina (who was one of the two on that day) missed a clear penalty when he only had half the pitch to worry about!Love it or hate it, enhanced TV and video technology and instant playback as they have in rugby is the nearest we'll get to cutting out the disputes (and that's not fool-proof.)

Open Quote
The more you punish the players who cheat the less it will happen
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Sandra, England
An official behind the goals? No matter where that person is standing there will be a blind spot. When international games are played (or other high-stakes games) and TV is available video replays are a must. This World Cup has plenty of evidence to support that move.

Five match officials (not four) is really too much. Bad judgements will only increase because, as many studies have shown, five people viewing the same incident see five different things. A video replay is hard evidence that demands impartiality and will help stamp out cheating if the penalties are harsh enough.

Have the problems not been as a result of 'bad' calls with offside, so how is a 5th official (there already is a 4th official) going to help?
Sean John, Scotland

A fourth official isn't necessarily required - if it's found that a player has pretended he's been fouled then he should be thrown out of the tournament, not just a small fine as this means nothing to them. The more you punish the players who cheat the less it will happen!
Sandra, England

I think that it will be a good idea to have four officials. With two referees on the field, they will be closer than ever to the action and they will have the chance to discuss before taking some damaging decisions. This was tried earlier in Italian Cup games and I thought that it was a good idea.

After a call is made, with discussion it can be overturned and human error could be reduced; but still the video replay is needed for very crucial decisions. There could be a video booth that can talk to the referee via wireless connections.
Jules Foute Nelong,Canada/ Cameroon

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Soon each player will have their own personal referee
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Bruno, Switzerland
Football could learn a lot from Rugby League by using a big screen for borderline decisions. In Super League many close matches have been decided by this method. If this was used in football all talk of conspiracy theories would be abolished.
Steven Errigadoo, England

I don't support a fourth official. I do support a video display method to help out the referee. Every referee would carry a slim palm size video monitor (in his shirt pocket) that has a wireless connection to a control room.

This control room should be staffed by Fifa officials that feed the referee with an instant replay of a foul or penalty box fake-foul. In the beginning it might add to the duration of the game, but eventually accurate refereeing will eliminate unfair play.
Dan Oidar, Dane in the USA

Penalty box official? What else will they come up with next? We have already four officials at the game. If a "penalty box official" will be introduced there will be six(!) people officiating a game. Soon each player will have their own personal referee. People will always make mistakes. Therefore the answer can only be the enforcement of technical aid.
Bruno, Switzerland

I think people need to be more practical and realistic in trying to find solutions. Soccer would never be the same if you were to stop every time a questionable moment arises and take time to review it and then finally make a decision upon reviewing that instance.

Not only is this impractical as it would probably make every game at the least half an hour longer but it would also slow down the game of soccer and take out all the fun with it. At the same time I don't think a fourth official will really make anything clearer or simpler but just end up complicating things more.

Fifa shouldn't implement anything new, but instead make tighter rules and routinely review each referee and create a system in which the referees can be judged more accurately on their abilities.

Open Quote
A fourth official just means another person to make errors
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Shelton Radix, Trinidad
When are they going to use the technology available?? Within 10 seconds of a decision all the major networks have a slow-mo video replay - why not use it??
Denise, Belfast

Not at all. No need for a fourth official. In my opinion, many Europeans seem to be unable to agree that Asian soccer team beat Europeans. That's ridiculous. You should learn how to recognize defeats.
Kim Tae Ree, South Korea

It would take possibly a minute for the referee to consult with an official who can replay the incident and make an informed decision. That way the referee has the same information as the pundits who sit and criticise in the studio.
James Laing, England

A fourth official just means another person to make errors - stop messing with the game.
Shelton Radix, Trinidad

I think it would be a great idea to have a fourth official to spot any discrepancies in the penalty box. Too many players are getting away with diving and genuine incidents are being overlooked. For example, the German hand ball on the line against the USA.
Lynn Ferrie, Scotland

Open Quote
It is only too easy to blame referees and officials for mistakes
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Johnny L, England

The idea to stick one lone fourth official behind the goals doesn't appear to be well thought out. There are two goals, one at each end of the pitch. How can one person be in two places at the same time? The only way to cover both areas at the one time is by video replay. If used sensibly, contentious incidents can be resolved one way or the other.
Leanne Kempshall, Australia

This game has been played for many years without one, so why now? What do the other two officials do apart from give ridiculous off sides, because that is what is killing the game. Too many times I have watched a game where the offside decisions have cost a team the game. Sort this out and football will be a lot better to watch.
Karl McArthur, England/Taiwan

It is only too easy to blame referees and officials for mistakes. When we watch on TV it is amazing how cynical and treacherous players are with diving, shirt-pulling, pushing etc. Personally, I am more than prepared to endure a period of 'mistakes' while officials clamp down on this behaviour. As long as players know there is little or no punishment for this kind of play they will continue to try and dupe officials, and it is slowly destroying the game.
Johnny L, England

Open Quote
Why not have TV evidence to right some wrongs after the game
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Alan Peabody, England

Having an official behind a goal to concentrate on penalty box activities is good in my opinion (both ends of the pitch, I hope). Most of the mishaps are around this area and the fourth official would have a better view of the situation than the main referee. I like this idea better than using video evidence, which can disturb the flow of a game and probably be a new form of time-wasting.
Arief, Australia/Indonesia

We already have a fourth official who seems to be fully occupied checking substitutions, keeping the managers in their place and sorting out stoppage time. Blatter's suggestion seems to me to actually need two more officials, one at each end. Plus you probably want a couple more in reserve in case any of the others get injured - eight officials at every match? Is that realistic?
James, UK

Will a fourth official mess up the flow of the match? One man covering both ends sounds like TV and waiting for a decision. Why not have TV evidence to right some wrongs after the game, like cancel out bad red cards, suspend a player for diving/faking etc. But leave the match and the result alone.

Open Quote
The idea of having a fourth official is OK, but there need to be two to be able to cover both sides of the pitch
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Msibi Wajoze, Zimbabwe

The ref isn't biased, but he can be fooled. If Rivaldo faced a three match suspension instead of a fine he could pay from pocket money he wouldn't have got up to his antics. Leave the spectacle alone, but take proper action when cheats are obviously exposed.
Alan Peabody, England

I can only see the introduction of a fourth official causing more confusion than it solves. How can both sides of the goal be covered, without the posts, netting and goalkeeper obscuring the view? A situation could easily arise where the fourth official gives one decision, the referee another and the linesman waves his flag for an offside offence. At least it will add an extra dimension to the post match analysis.
Mark Pointon, England

The idea of having a fourth official is OK, but there need to be two to be able to cover both sides of the pitch. There's nothing bad about that since the objective here is to improve the standards and fairness of the game. What is not noble is the video replay because that would further hinder the development of the sport in developing countries where associations can not afford to have matches recorded live.
Msibi Wajoze, Zimbabwe

It doesn't matter how many referees you add. If a mistake is made by one of them it won't be reversed. What we need is a fairer game and that can only be achieved with TV evidence for those situations that may require it.

It's not enough to say that it is just a game because it is not. It is a huge business that affects professionally and economically the lives of many people, and as such it should be made less prone to mistakes and intentional wrongdoing.
Jose, Spain/UK

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We need to know that if you do one thing in two different games, you will be treated exactly the same
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Graham Cole, England
The fourth official should not be on the pitch but instead be responsible for video replays. Both cricket and rugby union have made positive use of modern technology and football should do the same.
Mark Wood, England

If the referee could focus on the game instead of spending half his time trying to decide if there is a foul or a dive then he may be in a position to make correct decisions. The football teams are getting as good as they give. Tough, take the consequences.
Richard Philips,UK

What we need is more consistency in refereeing. We need to know that if you do one thing in two different games, you will be treated exactly the same. Additionally, we need to stop players trying to cheat the officials. Honest play will give rise to honest refereeing. Mistakes will still happen but at least everyone will know where they stand.
Graham Cole, England

Bad decisions have always been part of the game. Chances are that over a season you have as many decisions go for you as they go against. But, in a major tournament, especially in the knockout stages, referee mistakes are very cruel.

There should be a fourth official in place for World Cups, Euro championships and possibly the Champions League. I know it's part of the game but a lot is at stake these days and mistakes should be few and far between, not consistently made.
Mark, England

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Whether you have three or four incompetent officials is irrelevant
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Ridiculous - the game is glorious, stop messing around with it.

You just need one decent referee and two decent linesmen. Whether you have three or four incompetent officials is irrelevant. As for the video replay system, we already have that to an extent and what has that proved? Rivaldo received a paltry fine and Fifa haven't cancelled Ronaldhino's one match suspension. Neither have Fifa voiced any real concern over the standard of refereeing.

Not the complete answer but it would help. The only two reasons we should use a fourth official is to watch a video and decide whether the ball has crossed the goal line and to see whether or not a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area if the ref is unsure.
Marc Teesdale, Wales

Football does not need a fourth official but what the World Cup referees need is the use of TV evidence to help them make decisions. I suggest a panel of three neutral refs in a studio watching the game solely on TV. In cases of sending offs, penalties or disallowed goals the ref on the pitch could ask the panel for a final decision.
Diana Barker,France/UK

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