The Premier League today announced a radical change to all Premiership matches for the 2010/2011 Season.
Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, presenting the plans at a Gloucester Place press conference, explained that all Premier League matches will be officiated by a Referee and four line-based Referee's Assistants in place of the customary two. It was, he said, a solution designed to deal with the increased pace of the modern game.
"With 71% of Premier League games being decided by a single goal or being a draw," he said, "decisions for off-side, player infringements and other similar issues can become the primary factor affecting the match outcome. Managers are finding that in the average game an incorrect decision has more impact on the result than a multi-million-pound striker."
He went on to say that in addition to introducing the extra linesmen, the whole refereeing team, including what will now be termed the 6th official, will be able to communicate with each other using radio headsets.
"The system has been tried in various minor leagues around the world, and has proved very successful. However, the Premier League will be the first top-flight football league to adopt the system."
He said that he thought that if the statistics from the 2010/2011 season were as expected that other football organisations may well adopt the system. "The affect of incorrect decisions on a cup match, for example, can be even more catastrophic," Scudamore said, "and there is no opportunity for incorrect decisions to even up over the season."
Reaction to the announcement was mixed, with some fans feeling that a key element of the traditional game was being altered. However the Referees' Association welcomed the changes, and most club managers we spoke to endorsed the idea. Sir Alex Furguson said "Bearing in mind the relatively low cost of introducing two more officials, it seems a sensible change to make. Manchester United has suffered at the hands of poor decisions in the past and we hope this will help. We'll have to wait and see how it goes."