Considered to be one of the best referees of the modern era, and a universally respected name in football, Pierluigi Collina, has thrown his backing behind the use of additional assistant officials.
The 54-year-old Italian, who has officiated several high-profile matches, including the 2002 World Cup Final, retired over a decade ago but has since remained active in the game, working with the Uefa Referees Committee and the Italian Football Referees Association (AIA).
Collina was in Singapore for a brief stopover at the invitation of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to share his experience with referees and officials in a private seminar when he replied to queries from Goal on the progress made in using additonal assistant referees behind the byline and the implementation of the Goal-Line Technology (GLT).
He pointed out the prevalent use of the system as a sign of success. According to Collina, since the introduction of the goal-line referees in Europe in 2009, as many as 32 Football Associations, including Italy, Belgium, Serbia and Turkey, have adopted the system for regular use, with several others using it on selective basis.
"The system is working, we at Uefa are very happy, because we think the additional referees can help the referee in better control in the match," Collina told Goal. "There are incidents where it’s very difficult to see, I can tell you during a corner-kick, it’s almost impossible for one human being to follow six pairs of players moving. If you have two match officials positioned in two different angles of vision, they can share the control."
Collina added that the additional pair of eyes is useful when something occurs away from the main focus of play. He highlighted an incident that occured during the Italy-Croatia match at Euro 2012 when the assistant referee was able to spot an infringement that had taken place in the lead-up to a play.
"One [official] is controlling something, another is controlling something else; so the system works, works well," he said.
However, Collina warned that mistakes can still happen but it was down to human error which he conceded, can be unavoidable.
"Unfortunately, a mistake can happen, with the referee, with the assistant referee, with the additional assistant referees, so we have to accept that sometimes there are mistakes," he said when asked by Goal about the Sassuolo-Roma match that was suspended for five minutes as officials deliberated on a penalty decision which was ultimately overturned. "But it’s not the system that doesn’t work, it’s the human being that made a mistake."
Collina however was more reserved when speaking about the GLT which he noted has had relatively less of a role to play than additional assistant referees.
Using the English Premier League as an example, he emphasised that just two incidents had needed the use of GLT so far out of approximately 300 over matches and that in contrast additional referees come into play far more frequently. This, he added, while accounting for increased costs in employing more officials as well as in using the GLT, meant the greater need to promote the use of additional assistant referees instead.
"Every match you have roughly 16-18 situations where something can occur inside the penalty area," he estimated. "Having someone ready to assist the referees in this situation, we [at Uefa] thought that it’s very important, because the GLT gives you the answer if the ball crossed the line correct? If I save the ball on the goal-line by hand, the GLT will say 'No Goal', it will not say 'handball'. If the referee doesn’t see the handball, the goal is not given, the penalty is not given."
"But I am not against GLT, I would say in an ideal world, additional assistant referees and GLT can live together. As I said before, GLT is only for goal-line, the additional assistant referees are mainly for other things, because if the goal-line is the cause one time out of 380 matches, it means that it’s also important to assist the referee in taking manual decisions, because in an ideal world, they can live together."