Five-ref system on FIFA fast track?
ZURICH -- Soccer's experiment with five on-field officials rather than the traditional three must be approved next year to be ready for the 2014 World Cup.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told The Associated Press on Tuesday that elite referees will begin FIFA's three-year training program in 2011 for the tournament in Brazil, and each must start working with a regular team of either two or four assistants.
"If we want to be on time for the 2014 World Cup it means that the decision should be made by the end of this season," Valcke said.
He thinks the International Football Association Board, soccer's rule-making body, could decide the issue next June, although trials are scheduled to run in competitions including the European Champions League for two more years. The new system, which places an extra assistant beside each goal in addition to the two linesmen, would be used for the 2013 Confederations Cup if approved.
Raising refereeing standards became a priority for FIFA president Sepp Blatter after a series of mistakes at this year's World Cup, which followed the failure to detect Thierry Henry's double hand ball in last year's World Cup qualifying playoff between France and Ireland.
"In 2014, something has to be changed. We have only one goal following what has happened at the World Cup, and that is to make sure we give as much support as we can to the referees," Valcke said. "We have to train referees. You can't just add two additional assistant referees in 12 months, they have to work together."
Blatter relaxed his long-term defense of human error in on-field decisions by reopening the debate on goal-line technology.
The IFAB includes representatives from FIFA, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Valcke will join IFAB in Newport, Wales, next week to assess the trials, review 13 proposed goal-line technology systems and start setting the agenda for its annual meeting in March.
He said the March gathering could agree to meet again in June "and just have a small meeting just to make this decision."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press