x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

More officials in football do not diminish number of errors

A supplementary flag-bearer had angry Atalanta players protesting at him when they fell a goal behind against Lazio in Rome.

epa03533675 SS Lazio's Miroslav Klose (L) vies for the ball with Atalanta's Giacomo Bonaventura during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy, 13 January 2013. EPA/ETTORE FERRARI *** Local Caption *** 03533675.jpg
epa03533675 SS Lazio's Miroslav Klose (L) vies for the ball with Atalanta's Giacomo Bonaventura during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy, 13 January 2013. EPA/ETTORE FERRARI *** Local Caption *** 03533675.jpg

One of football's least logical and most popular myths is that refereeing errors for and against teams even out over a season. The reality is far more arbitrary.

In the four years since the game began to experiment with fifth and sixth match officials, another myth is in danger of establishing itself: that these assistant referees, stationed on the goal line, actually diminish the number of refereeing errors.

On Sunday, one of these supplementary flag-bearers had angry Atalanta players protesting at him when they fell a goal behind against Lazio in Rome. They had seen, as TV replays would confirm, that Sergio Floccari handled the ball before steering it in. Neither of the match officials closest to the action had seen the offence.

It was also suggested to Floccari by one of his opponents he should own up. There was, after all, a recent, relevant precedent for that sort of honesty. Miroslav Klose earlier in the season admitted handling a "goal" against Napoli in a Lazio defeat. The referee was going to award a goal until Klose confessed.

Floccari's instincts were more like those of a majority of professionals. He kept quiet. He might privately think the outcome of the Klose incident and his unpunished handball even each other out. That would be a myth. Unfortunately, Klose's action is remembered because it was such a rarity.

And it makes the German striker the most impressive fifth official Serie A has seen this season.

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