Friday 20 August 2010

EARs Introduced to UCL Starting with 2010-2011 Play-offs

Isn’t it great that European football competitions have started again? At the moment, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) and Europa League are in their Play-offs round. Before that, both competitions had three qualifying rounds.

This season (2010-2011), UEFA has decided to use extra assistant referees (EARs) for UCL. That, however, is as far as the consistency goes! They have decided to use EARs during the play-offs for UCL only (and not for Europa League play-offs).

[An EAR with his “magic wand” in a UCL play-off round match. Note: the new 2010/2011 UCL referee kits, which come in three colours: indigo-blue; white; and dark-orange.]

Last season (2009-2010), when UEFA decided to use EARs for the Europa League, they insisted EARs would only be used from the Group stage.

So why the difference between UCL and Europa League? One can only assume that it is related to the fallout from the 2010 World Cup, where calls were again made to introduce a system to help referees minimize any significant errors (whether it be goal-line technology or EARs). UEFA (or FIFA) clearly want to be seen to be doing something, even if it smacks of insincerity, reluctance and being rather late.

Perhaps another reason is because of the number of teams in the respective play-offs round. The UCL has 20 teams, and the Europa League has a whopping 74 teams. UEFA probably does not want to waste money and resources in getting EARs for all these matches so early in the season.

However from last season’s trial of EARs in the Europa League, what are the statistics to show whether or not EARs are useful? HKRef has previously predicted that UEFA or IFAB will be reluctant to openly share their report of the trial. In fact, the IFAB has simply said that they will trial EARs in the UCL this season without mentioning whether the use of EARs in the Europa League last season was significantly beneficial or not.

As a result, HKRef may publish preliminary statistics of UEFA’s trial of using EARs. It is difficult because UEFA has (whether intentionally or not) made it tricky to collect statistics consistently from their website.

Does anyone else have any statistics related to the EARs experiment? If anyone would like to collaborate on this, please contact HKRef.

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