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FIFA use Club World Cup to trial referee microphones

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FIFA use Club World Cup to trial referee microphones

The ongoing Club World Cup is being used as a trial run for another potential refereeing revolution in football, with fans in the stadium able to hear officials explain decisions taken following VAR reviews.

Referees being hooked up with microphones is nothing new in other sports such as the NFL, but it is only now being tested in football, just as the sport is still getting used to Video Assistant Referees and semi-automated offside technology.

And so Uruguayan referee Andres Matonte was able to succinctly explain why he awarded a late penalty to Real Madrid after coming across to review a possible foul in the box during the Spanish club’s 4-1 win over Al Ahly in the semi-final in Rabat on Wednesday.

“Penalty decision, foul by number 17”, Matonte told spectators on looking at the challenge by Al Ahly’s Amr El Solia on Real forward Vinicius Junior. Luka Modric’s kick was then saved.

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Matonte’s exchanges with the Video Assistant Referee remained confidential, but his brief announcement was relayed over loudspeakers in the stadium, to the delight of the crowd, with the majority of fans backing the European champions.

The International Football Association Board, the sport’s lawmakers, approved the trial last month with English FA chief executive Mark Bullingham — who sits on the board — saying it was “important in terms of transparency”.

FIFA are considering further trials at the Under-20 World Cup, scheduled to take place in Indonesia in May and June.

If deemed successful, the system may be given the green light for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July and August.

“I hope the spectators will benefit from this,” said Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s referees committee.

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“We are at the beginning, it’s the first time we’re doing it, so certainly it might not be perfect…but I’m confident that the outcome will be positive.”

Too many changes?

The first referee to explain his decisions to spectators was China’s Ma Ning, during the tournament’s opening game between Al Ahly and Auckland City.

He came across to review a possible penalty for a challenge by Auckland’s Adam Mitchell on Taher Mohamed, before deciding to award a free-kick just outside the box and show a red card to the defender for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

“We decided to (have) this trial…to make the decision taken by the referee after a VAR intervention more understandable (for)…the spectators at the stadium or (in front of) the television,” Collina added.

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“I have to say that there are other experiences in other sports, namely the NFL in American football, they (have been) doing it for quite a long time. It seems that the referees are pretty comfortable with this.”

Yet the desire to introduce more and more technology into the sport may not go down well with everyone, especially as VAR — itself first tested at the Club World Cup in 2016 — remains a source of controversy, the very thing its introduction was supposed to reduce.

“Over the last 10 years all we have seen is changes to the rules and the interpretation of them,” Eduardo Iturralde, a former Spanish referee who has taken charge of more La Liga matches than anyone else and is now a radio pundit in Spain, told AFP.

“What the spectator wants is more consistency with VAR decisions, that something that is given as a foul in Germany is also given as a foul in Spain. They want clarity.

“If you have to explain something that means spectators are confused because the rules change so much.

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“I don’t think football needs to copy the NFL. They are different sports, different cultures.” 

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Luis Sinisterra has made his move to AFC Bournemouth from Leeds United permanent, signing a long-term deal with the Premier League team on Friday.

Bournemouth reportedly agreed to a £20 million fee with Championship (second-tier) side Leeds.

The 24-year-old Colombian had been impressive since joining Bournemouth in September on a loan spell from Leeds United, with three goals and three assists in his 17 appearances.

“I’m really happy to make this move. I’m excited to play for Bournemouth for the long term,” Sinisterra said. “I feel really comfortable here and the fans are really nice. When I meet them in the streets, they show the love.”

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Andoni Iraola’s team are 12th in the table on 27 points, but are winless in their last four games. They play Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday. 

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

 Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma returned to Tottenham Hotspur this week from international duty, and both are ready for Spurs’ game with Brighton & Hove Albion, manager Ange Postecoglou said on Friday.

Son was involved with South Korea at the Asian Cup where they lost to Jordan in the semi-final on Tuesday while Bissouma’s Mali exited the Africa Cup of Nations last weekend at the quarter-final stage.

Spurs, fifth in the standings on 44 points, host Brighton on Saturday, with Roberto De Zerbi’s side in eighth place on 35 points.

“Sonny and Biss they trained well. Sonny did recovery on Thursday and trained today,” Postecoglou told a press conference.

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“He is very disappointed for Korea’s exit, at the semi-final stage you feel so close. But he gave everything for his nation, no-one could question his commitment.

“I spoke to him after and he was keen to be back, so no surprise he was back training straight away.”

The manager also played down concerns over Bissouma, after media reports that he had played through the illness with malaria at the tournament.

“No, that’s not right. He had a slight form of malaria before the tournament, but it cleared up by the start of tournament. He’s 100 percent now.”

Manor Solomon hasn’t played since September and Postecoglou confirmed that the winger had another procedure on his knee earlier this week and is still another two or three weeks away from a return.

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Another injury concern was Giovani Lo Celso who missed the last three league games for Spurs.

“Lo Celso trained all week but he’s missed a fair bit of football so we’ll see whether he needs another week or not,” the manager said.

“It’s probably, for want of a better word, the healthiest squad we’ve had for quite a while anyway.”

Spurs conceded an added-time equaliser at Everton last weekend and lost to a late Nathan Ake goal against Manchester City in the FA Cup, but conceding late is not something that overly concerns their manager.

“It’s disappointing to concede goals at any point. People will want to analyse it,” Postecoglou said.

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“I’m sorry but we’re going to be a team that will score or concede goals late. The way we want to close out games is by trying to score goals late on.

“One thing we’re not going to do is jump at shadows and try to fix the latest thing being analysed.” 

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Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

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Fils ends 'great champion' Gasquet's 956 weeks in top 100

 Rising star Arthur Fils beat fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday to end the veteran’s run of more than 18 years in the world’s top 100.

The 19-year-old Fils cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the 37-year-old Gasquet, who had enjoyed a remarkable 956 consecutive weeks in the top 100, peaking at number seven in July 2007.

Gasquet was defending the Auckland title and points he won 12 months ago, so the first-round defeat will see him slide down from 76th in the world when new rankings are released next week.

Fils, with a booming serve that produced nine aces, broke at 2-2 in the first set and at 1-1 in the second and applauded Gasquet as he left the court.

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“He’s a great champion. He did an unbelievable career so I’m really happy to play on the court with him,” said Fils, who reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open last week.

“But it was a nice match for my part and I’m really happy.”

In other action, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov looked rusty in his first match since Wimbledon last year, losing Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-4, 6-2.

Roberto Bautista Agut was beaten by fellow Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-4 and eighth seed Max Purcell of Australia overcame New Zealand’s 716th-ranked wildcard Kiranpal Pannu 6-4, 6-4.

The top four seeds, Ben Shelton, Cameron Norrie, Francisco Cerundolo and Felix Auger-Aliassime, all had first-round byes. 

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