MIKE WOITALLA: Bring on the second ref

FIFA will experiment with the two-referee system during the 1999-2000 season. So far, Norway, Brazil and Trinidad & Tobago have volunteered for the test. Currently, the ref and two linesmen must keep track of 22 players. A ridiculous ratio. No other major sport places such a large burden on so few. Plus, the linesmen are outside the field of play and must concentrate on offside. Players away from the ball, the ref's obvious focus, can push, shove and grab each other. That they do. Just watch the goalmouth before a cross. The referee must run more than players. With a two-ref system, FIFA could abolish its absurd mandatory retirement age of 45. When we find a good ref, let's keep him as long as possible. Many of you have played in the two-ref system -- it's common at the high school level -- and remember incidents of a ref 10 yards from the action keeping his whistle down while the one 50 yards away makes the call. That's why FIFA should have been more precise in its parameters, which don't assign specific areas to each referee nor give one referee seniority. The American two-ref system did not include linesmen, rendering it farcical. FIFA's system would maintain the referee's assistants. A favorite lament of coaches and players is inconsistency among different refs. Even referees argue that a two-ref system can spell disaster if it combines two different personalities. But guidelines and a hierarchy among the officials should address this problem. If other sports can manage to police a game with a platoon of officials, then soccer should succeed in getting two refs to work well together. And ultimately, the coaches and players will love the two-ref system. They'll have an additional person to blame their failures on. FANS: LET'S HEAR YOUR VIEW Click here to log onto (Soccer) American Graffiti. Then click on the topic titled "YOUR VIEW: Bring on the second ref" and respond to Mike Woitalla in 200 words or less. Best responses may be reprinted in Soccer America Magazine. If YOUR View is selected, we'll send you a cool T-shirt and pin... Because You're FANATIC.
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