Sunday, 9 December 2012

EARs: Cherry Picking With Collina Part 1 of 2

UEFA believe in the use of additional assistant referees:

"Two extra pairs of eyes focusing on the penalty areas are of valuable assistance to the referees and strengthen the referee team in confidence and numbers, while allowing the game to flow." — Michel Platini, UEFA president

HKRef admires Pierluigi Collina as a top top Referee. In his present role as UEFA Chief Refereeing Officer, it is perhaps understandable that he is toeing the line (Platini's line) in its support of using extra match officials which UEFA calls additional assistant referees (see Now We See More). In this instance HKRef is skeptical about Collina's claims unless, as mentioned back in 2009 (see New Europa League will Trial "Five" Match Officials), UEFA truly reveals the datasets and statistical analyses of their "experiment". The fact that UEFA has promoted their pre-conceived conclusions without providing any solid evidence is perhaps another issue for discussion.

Aside: Once again, as a matter related to native English language tendencies, this blog insists on using the term Extra Assistant Referees (EARs) instead of AARs (see earlier explanation here). The choice in using "additional" is most probably a decision made by a non-native English speaker … since for native English speakers it is more natural and easier to use "extra" rather than "additional" in everyday use.

In UEFA's videoclip (see Additional assistant referees DVD for FAs) Collina says:
The main goal of having two more match officials involved in the match is to give the referee support in taking decisions when something occurs in and around the penalty area and not to control the goal line only.

There are very few occasions when it is not clear if the ball has crossed, or not, the goal line and there are many more occasions when the incidents take place in and around the penalty area and the referee has to take a decision when not in the best position, or condition, to do it.

Close to 1,000 matches since August 2008 have used additional assistant referees [EARs]
UEFA's graphic claims 1000+, when in fact it should be ~1000

Collina claims that the results achieved are:
1) a better assessment of incidents, particularly fouls, occurring in and around the penalty area with the referees not able to make a decision;

2) a reduction of incidents like holding, pulling and blocking at set pieces (corner kicks, free kicks) has been widely noticed as the additional assistant referees presence works as a deterrent. If you consider that in most matches around 10 corner kicks and 8 free kicks are taken towards the penalty area and that in most of these holding and blocking can occur, it is easy to see why the additional assistant referees presence is so important**; and

3) a better control of the goal line to determine whether the ball crosses the line.

But something else we identified as a result of additional assistant referees presence:

4) An improved standard of assistant referees decision and accuracy as they can now focus their attention on offsides only. We had more than 96% accuracy on about 430 offside decisions with 27 goals scored on difficult offside-onside positions

UEFA used a videoclip of this AR (above) making an offside decision. What a shame this AR did not use the standard protocol and raise his flag straight up.

Note: This fourth point is the only instance where UEFA uses a dataset and statistics [why doesn't UEFA share their other datasets?]. This means 413 offside decisions were correct, out of 430. This also means 17 offside decisions were incorrect during EURO 2012.

** Collina uses anecdotal evidence to persuade. He claims EARs have a deterrent effect. Where are the statistics that show the presence of EARs have a deterrent effect? How is this actually measured and concluded?
For instance (as above) he said: It is easy to see why the additional assistant referees presence is so important. This is called Cherry Picking. Whenever something occurs that supports your claims, you accept it into your results, but whenever something occurs that goes against your claims, you ignore it. For instance in this post, the example of AC Milan's Gianluca Zambrotta pushing an opponent in the penalty area goes against what Collina is claiming, and so is conveniently ignored. UEFA and Collina cherry pick in their support of the use of EARs.

Here are examples UEFA and Collina use in their videoclip to support the use of EARs:

1) EURO 2012 Italy v Croatia on 14 June 2012 at Municipal Stadium Poznan

EAR2 Mark Clattenburg spots and shouts: "defensive foul, defensive foul, defensive foul"

Referee Howard Webb says: "Yes, great play Clatts. We both saw that one. All nicely done" [This is what is heard from the videoclip]

This is UEFA's translation of Webb's English 

To European ears, "great play" magically becomes "great spotting". A native English speaker would never be caught saying "great spotting" (just as a native English speaker would much prefer to say "extra" instead of "additional").

Collina says, in all seriousness: "The voices are from the English match officials, with English subtitles."

Haha. Collina and UEFA are apparently so worried that Mark Clattenburg's Geordie (North-East) accent and Howard Webb's Yorkshire accent may not be so easily or universally understood, which is why they inserted English subtitles. Using that same "logic", this whole UEFA videoclip should have been subtitled because Collina's English accent (his English has a very strong Italian accent) may also not be so easily or universally understood. For example, Collina pronounces UEFA as sounding like "wafer".

And let's not get sidetracked with the humorous use, or non-use, of subtitles! Even though Collina is claiming that the EAR did a great job in identifying the foul, the fact is the Referee actually identified the defensive foul himself (this is what Webb clearly said on the communication system). So what is Collina's point?

Note: These are honest observations, and there is no intention of being disrespectful. If any reader has a problem with this blog's observations then they are welcome to leave this site.

Please see Part 2 of EARs: Cherry-Picking With Collina, where more examples will be presented.

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