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Communication system - useful devices for match officials

Maltese referees and their assistants are wearing communication devices during Premier League and Division One matches.

Maltese referees and their assistants are wearing communication devices during Premier League and Division One matches.

The communications equipment, which is now being used by local football referees, brings them in line with their European counterparts.

This system is intended to help referees give more accurate decisions because immediate consultation can take place with assistant referees and with the fourth official.

This does not mean that personal consultation among the officials is eliminated. It also does not give the referee the freedom to rely solely on this equipment.

Eye-to-eye contact is still of paramount importance. The less said among the officials the better as one word too many may be misinterpreted and could put officials in trouble.

This is why officials always agree on a sort of code, in other words the use of language which is not open to any misinterpretation. It, however, ensures that a quick word from an assistant for a referee who is not looking the right way or who needs split second advice is there for him.

The fourth official is also important here because he/she can communicate with the referee if there's any problem with the officials or substitutes on the benches.

This official can also inform the referee that a player who was injured is ready to get back on. It is also an easier and quicker way for the fourth official to draw the referee's attention to any incident which happens behind his back and which has also escaped the assistant referees' attention.

The Malta Football Association's Referees Board approved the purchase of these communication devices because it wants to continue to improve the performance of its referees.

This equipment costs thousands of euros and is being used in Premier League and First Division matches. The members of the training and schooling sub-committee of the Referees Board did not just impose the use of this equipment on referees but they put them through their paces before sanctioning their use. An official from the manufacturer was also brought over to explain how the system works. These so-called microphones, for want of a better word, are very sensitive. While each referee and assistant referee has his/her own earpiece, the responsibility of the referee is to ensure that after each match they are still in perfect working order before being handed over to the association officials.

It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the Malta FA is continuing in its unstinted efforts to help officials raise the game to the highest level. This communications equipment is a useful gadget but it can't make decisions for the referee.

This is why referees can't just depend on them as with anything mechanical or battery-powered, failure is also a possibility. That is why the referee will still have to rely on his/her own judgment no matter what.

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