Ian Blanchard: “We need to be open to anything that assists the...

Ian Blanchard: “We need to be open to anything that assists the match officials in getting those big, crucial decisions right.”


Despite Germany’s clinical elimination of England, we had a controversy with regards to Frank Lampard‘s potential equalizer in the first half. Two years ago, I had the great pleasure to interview Ian Blanchard, Head of National Referee Development at the English FA. He had some interesting thoughts about goal line technology and the use of additional referees. Here are two excerpts from that interview:

Goal Line Technology

Since we are discussing innovations in the role of match officials, technology enters the equation. At the 2005 U-17 World Cup in Peru, goal line ball chip technology by adidas was used for the first time. In December 2007, it was used at the World Club Championships in Japan. What is your opinion on developments such as this, along with video replay monitors, similar to ones used in American gridiron football, during the game itself?

Frank Lampard was denied a first half equalizer
Frank Lampard was denied a first half equalizer

“One has to understand the cultural makeup and history of football. At its roots lies the passion of the game, the excitement, and free flow passage of the ball quickly making its way from one end of the field to the other. The commitment of players challenging for the ball, the battle to dominate and keep possession are all attributes of this fantastic game of ours.

Of course when it comes to high profile wrong decisions, when relegation or promotion is at stake, questions are asked whether technology could play a part. In my mind we need to be open to anything that assists the match officials in getting those big, crucial decisions right. Provided of course such technology does not interfere with the fundamentals of our game as described above.

The electronic chip has still to be developed effectively but I do think it has the potential, provided of course that it is of benefit to the referee and aids the referee’s decision making.”

Assistant referee, Mauricio Espinosa
Assistant referee, Mauricio Espinosa

On Using Additional Assistants

How does a referee develop the type of consistency as expressed by Mr. Collina, and what are your impressions about the proposal to add additional assistants and/or another referee on the pitch?

“There is much speculation about referees being consistent; however, I believe this is almost impossible unless you want robots to control games of soccer. However, I do believe referees can be consistent in a game of 90 minutes of football. As an example, if a player commits a tripping offence early in the game and a similar foul is committed later on, players will expect you to deal with the situation in a similar manner. The laws of the game need to be applied in a fair and equitable manner, this is the only way that players will gain respect for the referee.

I am not supportive of additional referees or assistants in order to control a game. Can you imagine the uproar if one referee gives a foul and cautions as opposed to the other referee in the other half just giving a foul? In my opinion this would breed inconsistence and confusion. The same can be said for assistant referees. In one half you may have a very competent official whereas in the other half the assistant is not so good.”

Match official, Jorge Larrionda
Match official, Jorge Larrionda

What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Blanchard on both of these opinions? Do you think that the final outcome would have been any different had Lampard’s goal counted? Should FIFA introduce additional technology (presently, match officials communicate with each other via wireless headsets)?

Please let us know.

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer, editor and translator from Washington, D.C. He writes the World Football Commentaries blog. He has written for AC Cugini Scuola Calcio (Italian soccer school), Football Media, Keeper Skool and Soccerlens.

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Steve is a freelance writer, editor and translator from Washington, D.C. He was the founder of World Football Commentaries in 2006. He has written for AC Cugini Scuola Calcio (Soccer School), Football Media, Italian Soccer Serie A, International Herald Tribune 2006 World Cup Fan Blog, Keeper Skool and Soccerlens. Steve has also created three football-related sites: World Football, Italian Calcio and History of the Azzurri, and The Amoias of the Americas. Steve translated player and manager quotes from Italian and Spanish to English for Soccerlens during the FIFA 2010 World Cup.


  1. Germany obviuosly paid the referees.. as a “revenge”…As long as Blatter and Beckenbauer have something to say within the FIFA there will always be those “mistakes”.. a 2-2 could have changed everything, it was england’s turning point and it has been manipulated…

    I’m not english, so don’t say I’m just pissed off. I just can’t see any disallowed goals anymore..
    For example: Italy,.. okay they played bad and deserved to be thrown out, but against slovakia the refs disallowed a regular goal by Quagliarella (2-2)..there was no offside at all…

    Why disagree to sensors at the lines and video review to allow/disallow goals..hm ?…to leave space for manipulation !

  2. Too few if any at all are willing to look at the dark side of football, not to mention the corruption of FIFA itself. I have already seen four dreadful decisions by referees who are “infallible” and so answer to nobody. The FIFA system is open to corruption as well–i.e. bribery. But I suspect stupidity is usually the reason for such decisions as we saw in the England vs. Germany or Argentina vs. Mexico matches. My son who plays keeper in school asked me a question: “Why didn’t the German keeper simply hold the ball high and tell the referees that it was a goal for England, or why did not Mr. Tevez who clearly knew he was off-side, say “Hey, I was off-side, no goal.”? Answer: neither were honorable, but, the system encourages lying and dishonorable behavior. If you can get away with it, it is o.k. I can understand why some of my USA friends find soccer such an unethical farce, and think it will never really catch on in USA–at least the say FIFA “plays” the game.

  3. There is, to me, a simple reason that TV replay is NOT a solution and today’s situation with England/Germany is a perfect example.

    How and when do you decide to stop a match to check the video?

    Sure, it works if the ref calls it a goal and play is awaiting a restart, but today’s is the perfect inverse of the scenario.

    Take Lampard’s shot as an example: Shot taken, bounce off bar, German GK’r reclaims the ball and starts a counter attack. If I recall correctly, Germany almost scored in seconds after… Just for argument’s sake, what if Germany HAD scored on that counter?

    If the answer is to stop play, well when do you do that? If it took TV 20 seconds to show the replay in today’s incident, Germany in that time had sprinted downfield and attacked. So, would you have stopped play at the next stoppage? While Germany is sprinting

    What if that was when the ball was in the English goal, behind James (again)? Do you allow that goal while going back and allowing Lampard’s?

    For me the solution to both the GER/ENG goal line issue, and the ARG/MEX offside call is very, very simple and it allows Blatter to stay with this “human theme”..

    Use more officials with more decision making power.

    Go to a quadrant system with four assistants on each quarter of the field, PLUS a “Goal Line Assistant” aside each goal (already being used in the Europa Cup, this official is responsible for balls crossing the line)

    All of these new additions can also assist the Center Ref with hard to see decisions such as hand balls and off the ball shenanigans.

    As for the offside issue, I believe that the use of headset technology would allow assistants on the same half of the field on opposite sides to communicate about what they have seen and make the proper calls concerning offside with FAR more accuracy.

    This is a solution that doesn’t involve installing anything, and also would allow the sport to utilize the manpower it already has.

    Is it perfect, hell no. But I think it allows the sport to stick to its fundamentals of allowing play to continue and flow with as little stoppages as possible (ie: advantage), retains its human qualities and even better, four more people to bribe!

  4. Thank you for the insightful comments.

    JohnB, your son brings up a great point.

  5. Every Euro or WorldCup is the same story: England will smash all opponents until glorious victory!
    Forget Managers…as once Mourinho said: You cannot do omelette’s without the eggs! So, spot blaming Capelo!
    English players are overrated, all of then! (maybe except Gerard, Terry or Lampard) And Rooney you may ask?! Please, take a look at ManU, he only plays well in EPL and what happens when he plays against giants in Champions League?! Nothing happens, thats right, nothing…(ManU is just a ordinary time without CRon, no one there who makes the difference!)
    And EPL is not the problem, just take a look at Portugal, they have almost every players in the national team play abroad, their league is full of Brazilians and still as a very small country they manage to be in every single Euro and WorldCup…and do well! Oh, and look for their youth times, with Euro and World titles!
    Looking for answers?! Do you know where France and Spain copy their roll model for their youth nationals times?!

  6. All this corruption talk is pointless… It’s game and you get screwed over every now and then. Call it karma if you prefer. Call it bad luck. But if you really want to be pedantic about the English loss, blame it on themselves for putting themselves in the situation in the first place for failing to beat Algeria.

    Anyway, back to the referee’s, Peter brings up the best point about how do we know when to stop? If Germany had scored do you allow both goals or what? Blanchard’s 2 points that he make are the best arguments against you will hear and they don’t actually have an answer. How do you justify having 2 extra referee’s or 4 referee’s in quadrants of the field when they all see something and award things differently? He hits the nail on the head when he says it breads inconsistency. Bad decisions by the ref are part of the game, you live with it and get on with it. I lost the state cup because of one, you’re bitter but you have to realise that he is doing the best job he can and until you can play an entire game and make no mistakes at all, you have no right to criticise.

    The best piece of technology and the only one I feel that can be introduced without causing havoc to the game is introducing chip technology to the ball to tell when it’s crossed the line and they have said they’re working on it.

  7. I think the anwser to Peter’s point is simple! You don’t stop play but the ref communicates with a video ref that he wants a review. At the same time he raises his arm (or some other action) to indicate that a review has been called.

    It will be an extremely rare situation where another team scores in the interim but if they do….so what? If the decision (to use last nights example) is in England’s favour they are awarded a goal. Everything that happens thereafter is null and void….as would have been the case if the ref saw the incident and gave the decision immediately.

    I don’t see any problem with that. Also, I suspect in time, if this rule was followed, that as soon as a ref indicated a review had been called for, the players would just knock the ball out of play in the same way that they do when a player is injured.

  8. Dr. Paul Hawkins invented the “Hawk-Eye” technology used in cricket and tennis. He commented today at the BBC:

    “Goal-line incidents are the only decisions which are entirely definitive and the answer can be provided to the referee within 0.5 seconds of the incident happening,” said Dr Hawkins.

    “This makes a clear distinction between goal-line and other decisions. Referees want goal-line technology. It would be there to help them, not to replace them.”

    Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2010/8766423.stm

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