Monday 18 June 2012

Another Missed Opportunity For EARs

The following incident occurred during the Euro 2012 final group match between Greece and Russia on Saturday 16 June 2012. The match finished 1—0, with Greece progressing to the quarterfinals at the expense of Russia. There were 6 YCs.

In the 61' with the score at 1—0 Greece captain 35-year-old Giorgos Karagounis (white 10), on his record-equalling 120th cap for his country, dances into the penalty area and is tripped by a Russia defender Sergei Ignashevich (red 4). Referee Jonas Eriksson immediately whistles for an IFK to Russia and cautions Karagounis for simulation. As a result, Greece were denied a penalty and Karagounis, who was cautioned in a previous group match, misses the next match which is the quarterfinal stage. Here are the freeze frames:

Does Referee Eriksson have a good, clear and angled view?

Karagounis (Greece 10) cannot believe he is booked for simulation

If Referee Eriksson had positioned himself behind play, and hence had this angle of view, he would have clearly seen contact between the players*: Here are the freeze frames:

It is noticeable that the Referee's positioning did not provide a good clear angled view of the incident. Nevertheless, the Referee convinced himself that what he saw was a dive … since he did not (and could not) see any contact between the players.
[*Note: Had Referee Eriksson been optimally positioned, then this would still negate the usefulness of having EARs (or at least those positioned behind the goal line on the side of the goal nearest the AR) because they would both have the optimal angle of view of the incident, albeit from either side of the players.]

In such circumstances, would it not be better for the Referee to first take the opportunity to solicit feedback, if any, from his assistants before making a decision? It is always better to be late and correct, than quick and wrong.
Granted, this is a tough question to ask a Referee. But at this level with their extensive preparation, training and experience plus their use of communications technology, it is a legitimate question to ask. Are such Referees considered skilled, experienced and adaptable enough to deal with such situations? Can and should an experienced Referee recognise when he does not have an optimal position to make a good call and hence solicit assistance from his team? This of course has to be balanced with how well a Referee can "sell a decision", whether correct or not.

It should be evident that:
a) AR2 (Mathias Klasenius) would not have had a good view; and
b) EAR2 (Stefan Johannesson) had the better view out of the three match officials (R, AR2 and EAR2) closest to the incident.

This is what EAR2 saw, or should have seen:
Russia defender Ignashevich (red 4) trips Greece captain Karagounis (white 10) in the box

Notice Referee Eriksson had a poor angle of view

It is easy to say now but this is what we are here for ... to learn and improve. The best thing for the Referee to have done was to prepare his assistants (ARs, EARs and 4thO) well with a thorough briefing and then to make use of everyone's skill and experience by allowing active participation and working as a team. What is the use of UEFA claiming "Now we see more" when the facts show that they do not do enough to encourage Referees to act on this claim. This is just another form of soft-option officiating.

In any case, this is yet another example that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of EARs (the evidence against EARs continues to accumulate). EAR2 could have been effective by providing useful and crucial information to the Referee. It didn't happen, and subsequently the Referee made an incorrect and controversial decision.

The match officials were:
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE)
Assistant referees: Stefan Wittberg (SWE), Mathias Klasenius (SWE)
Fourth official: Hüseyin Göçek (TUR)
Additional assistant referees: Markus Strömbergsson (SWE), Stefan Johannesson (SWE)


  1. Why do you insist in calling them EARs, while they officialy are Additional Assistant Referees (AARs)?

  2. Thanks Anon. Good question.

    First, I find it difficult to take the presence of AARs seriously, so the acronym EAR (extra assistant referees) is used in the half-humorous semi-serious phrase:

    Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?

    Second, I am being kind. It is a bit of a mouthful to say "Aye-Aye-R", so the temptation is to pronounce it as one word, such as "AhhhhhRs" which sounds a lot like "ARSE" and "ASS". IMHO there should be some respect and dignity afforded to match officials, so that's why I call them EARs! It's easier to pronounce and is not disrespectful considering the alternative pronunciation. :)

    UEFA's experiment in using EARs is a failure. The accumulated evidence is there for all to see, yet the powers-that-be will not admit this. They will only extoll the positive acts of EARs (which are few and far between).