UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina welcomed the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) decision to introduce additional assistant referees (AARs) in league games from next season, as he and UEFA chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu addressed the Hungarian Football Forum in Budapest on Wednesday.
Invited by the MLSZ to illustrate the benefits of AARs at the body's second Football Forum, the Italian referee – who oversaw the 2002 FIFA World Cup, 1999 UEFA Champions League and 2004 UEFA Cup finals – congratulated his hosts on their move to bring in the system. "One of the most important topics in world football is refereeing," said Collina. "The MLSZ is doing great work for Hungary by raising this to a higher level."
Under the system, which became part of the Laws of the Game last summer, the referee, two assistants and fourth official are joined by two additional assistant referees positioned alongside each goal line, with the particular brief to watch for incidents in the penalty area and help the match referee in taking decisions. UEFA is currently using AARs in its club competitions, after they were also successfully deployed at UEFA EURO 2012.
"Acceleration and speed is the biggest difference between the football of the past and of the present," added Collina. "Because of this, the AAR system has been brought in. It is the aim of the IFAB [International Football Association Board] that this can be of assistance to the referee, mainly connected with situations within the penalty areas that very often occur during a match."
Collina went on to detail the advantages of having extra officials on the goal line for the assistant referees also, after reviewing the results of the successful trial at UEFA EURO 2012. It was noted that around 40% of goals at the tournament were immediately preceded by onside/offside situations that could have been interpreted in different ways. Their correct assessment was made easier thanks to AARs' presence, as the assistant referees were fully focused on offside only. The system was also helpful in discouraging fouls in the penalty area.
Ioan Lupescu used the occasion to explain UEFA's long-standing and successful coaching and technical education programme to the Budapest conference. He said that UEFA's coach education activities were aimed at improving coaching standards at all levels, educating coaches to produce better players, stimulating domestic coach education programmes and creating better exchange and better cooperation.
All 53 UEFA member national associations were signatories to the UEFA coaching convention, which was established in 1998 to regulate coach education in Europe. More than 162,000 coaches currently hold UEFA-recognised licences. Lupescu also discussed the fruitful UEFA student coach education exchange programme – which gives Pro licence students the opportunity to have an international exchange as well as access to UEFA, its tutors and materials – and the UEFA Study Group Scheme, whereby European FAs are sharing crucial technical knowledge for the overall benefit of the game.
Lupescu highlighted UEFA's various high-profile coaching and coach education events – ranging from coach education workshops and courses for specialised coaches such as futsal and goalkeeping, to events featuring Europe's leading club and national-team coaches. He emphasised the quality of UEFA's educational tools and services, from technical reports and newsletters to DVDs and the UEFA Training Ground website.
UEFA attaches considerable importance to grassroots football, in line with the belief that the sport's higher levels cannot flourish without healthy foundations. The UEFA Grassroots Charter encourages national associations to enhance their grassroots programmes, while UEFA Grassroots Day – held in the week before every UEFA Champions League final – is a pan-European celebration of football for everyone, comprising FA events and awards for those who excel in grassroots work.
The nurturing of youth footballers, Lupescu said, was another key UEFA mission. International development tournaments supported by UEFA for Under-16 boys' and girls' teams, are offering young talents within the associations the chance to play at international level at a crucial time in their development.
Lupescu closed his presentation by briefly reviewing EURO 2012 from a technical point of view, and by revealing the key elements of Spain's recent triumphs. He emphasised the excellent youth development structure paving the way for the Spanish Football Federation's (RFEF) success story.
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