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Continental football confederations and national football associations have been given the option to undertake a further two-year trial to test the system of five referees, following a decision taken on Tuesday by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).
The IFAB – which comprises FIFA and the national associations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – came to its verdict at a special meeting in Zurich, following a report submitted on the experiment with five match officials which has been made during this season's UEFA Europa League.
FIFA will now write to its member associations and the six continental confederations, asking them to inform the world governing body whether they would wish to effect such a trial in their competitions. Any trial would have to be carried out through an entire competition. An IFAB sub-committee will convene for a special meeting in July to approve requests that are made.
"I consider this a major step forward and an extremely positive development for refereeing," said UEFA president Michel Platini. "The UEFA Executive Committee will now decide which European competition or competitions they wish to propose for further tests to take place over the next two years."
Under the system, the referee, two assistant referees and the fourth official are accompanied by two additional assistants who take up positions alongside each goal. Their particular remit is to focus on incidents that take place in the penalty area.
"A presentation was provided on the experiment with additional assistant referees in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League, following the conclusion of 144 group stage matches and 61 knockout phase fixtures," said FIFA. "It was agreed that for a period of two years, FIFA's six confederations and 208 member associations, subject to agreement from the IFAB, will be able to experiment using additional assistant referees."
Trials with two additional assistant referees were first performed in UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying tournaments in autumn 2008, after which the IFAB gave permission for the experiment to be continued at professional level. Consequently, the experiment was implemented in the UEFA Europa League last season after being endorsed by both the world football body and the IFAB.
The IFAB also approved an amendment on the role of the fourth official, which now extends the scope of their duty to "assist the referee to control the match in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The referee however, retains the authority to decide on all points connected with play."
In addition, the IFAB gave a green light to an amendment in the wording of Law 14 on penalty kicks. "Feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted, however feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run-up is now considered an infringement of Law 14 and an act of unsporting behaviour for which the player must be cautioned."
The IFAB will sound out players, coaches and match officials after the forthcoming FIFA World Cup to discuss Law 12 on fouls and misconduct. This relates to sending-off offences and the so-called 'triple sanction' – where a spot kick, red card and suspension result when a player denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity to the opposing team within the penalty area.
The decisions concerning the Laws of the Game taken by the IFAB come into force on 1 June.
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