Europe's top club coaches have lent their support to the trial with two additional assistant referees – an experiment that will be continuing in UEFA's club competitions for the next two years.
The coaches gave a positive reaction to the trial at the annual UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum in Nyon, in which UEFA and the coaches gather to discuss topics of mutual interest and debate proposals to further develop and improve the game.
Under the experiment, which was undertaken in last season's UEFA Europa League, the referee, two assistant referees and the fourth official are accompanied by two additional assistants who take up positions alongside each goal. Their particular brief is to focus on incidents that take place in the penalty area, such as holding or pushing at set-piece situations.
"The coaches are very positive about, and look forward to, the experiment," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh. "They're aware of the problems of going down a technological route, and would like to keep things human if possible. This is an experiment to try and minimise errors. Everyone says it is definitely worth trying.
"This role of additional assistant referees is new, and has to be nurtured and developed – and the idea of having two extra eyes to look at the penalty area will help in the case of dramatic incidents," Roxburgh added. "There is also a deterrent effect, in that there might not be so much pulling and pushing in the penalty area if players know there are extra eyes watching them."
Following a decision by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in July, the trial continues at matches in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, and in the UEFA Super Cup in 2011.
Coaches also welcomed the modifications to the international match calendar, which now, in Europe for example, will see back-to-back UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying games on Fridays and Tuesdays, instead of Saturdays and Wednesdays as before. "The coaches triggered this idea at this forum some years ago," said Roxburgh.
"They're very happy about this, because, for example, players who are away in South America will be back at training on Thursday mornings. Previously they could be arriving on a Friday and immediately getting on a plane or bus to go somewhere."
The away-goals rule was another area for dialogue. For some four decades now, where the aggregate score is equal in a two-legged tie, the side that has scored the most goals in their away leg is deemed to have been the winner. The coaches said they were happy to maintain the current rule, which was well-established – but that possible other uses of the away-goals rule, in particular pertaining to extra time, might be looked at in future.
For the top coaches, the UEFA Champions League continues to be a football pinnacle, alongside other events such as the FIFA World Cup and the EURO competition. Tactics were on the table for discussion, with conclusions emerging such as the increase in midfield screening players operating in front of defences, full-backs who operate up and down the field as "penalty box to penalty box players", and the popularity of the 4-2-3-1 system over other lineups.
There was a general feeling of pride that three European teams, featuring players from European clubs, had occupied the three top positions at the World Cup in South Africa this summer. "This group thinks the Champions League is a benchmark of football," said Roxburgh. "Coaches think it is the ultimate."
The following coaches were present in Nyon: Massimiliano Allegri (AC Milan), Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea FC), Didier Deschamps (Olympique de Marseille), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC), Jean Fernandez (AJ Auxerre), Jesualdo Ferreira (Málaga CF), Thorsten Fink (FC Basel 1893), Josep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Roy Hodgson (Liverpool FC), Jorge Jesus (SL Benfica), Martin Jol (AFC Ajax), Felix Magath (FC Schalke 04), José Mourinho (Real Madrid CF), Nikos Nioplias (Panathinaikos FC), Claude Puel (Olympique Lyonnais), Claudio Ranieri (AS Roma) and Thomas Schaaf (SV Werder Bremen).
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