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An innovation which has proved its worth and which is now part of the Laws of the Game is the additional assistant referee (AAR) system, which is helping the referee in the decision-making process.
In the system, the referee, two assistants and fourth official are joined by two additional assistant referees positioned alongside each goal, with the particular brief to watch for penalty-area incidents such as pushing or holding.
The experiment with additional assistant referees began at a UEFA European Under-19 Championship mini-tournament in Slovenia in the autumn of 2008. In the 2009/10 season, UEFA Europa League matches were officiated, as part of the experiment, with the additional assistant referees.
Following a decision by football's lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), in July 2010, the system was continued as a trial in UEFA's major club competitions, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons. It was also deployed at the UEFA Super Cup in 2011, and additional assistants were used at UEFA EURO 2012.
On 5 July 2012, the IFAB unanimously agreed that the use of two additional assistant referees be approved, acknowledging the support they can provide in officiating matches. In the wake of the IFAB decision, UEFA is now deploying the system in its club competitions.
The positive results have been clear to see, as UEFA chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina explains. "The main goal is for additional assistant referees to give support when a decision has to be taken – particularly inside the penalty area, where a decision can affect the result of a match," he explained.
"What we have seen is a better [refereeing] control of the match," he added. "There has been a reduction in incidents – particularly at set pieces such as corners and free-kicks – better control of the goal line and higher accuracy in terms of decisions taken by the assistant referees. These goals have been achieved thanks to additional assistant referees."
All FIFA member associations are free to fully apply the system, and several European associations have introduced the system in domestic competitions.
Pierluigi Collina emphasised that the additional assistant referees had fulfilled a need brought about by changes in football over the past decade. "The biggest change in the last ten years has been speed," he reflected. "Today it is very difficult for a referee to take a decision – much more than in the past. The referee's job has become more and more difficult.
"With football getting even faster and the players fitter, it seems that sometimes the men in black face a 'mission impossible'," he added. "Two extra pairs of eyes focusing on the penalty areas are of valuable assistance to the referee, and strengthen the refereeing team in confidence and numbers, while allowing the game to flow."