ZURICH -- Football's experimental five-officials system to referee matches needs fast-track approval next year to be ready for the 2014 World Cup, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Tuesday.
Valcke told The Associated Press that elite referees will begin FIFA's three-year training program in 2011 for the tournament in Brazil, and each must start working with a regular team of either two or four assistants.
"If we want to be on time for the 2014 World Cup it means that the decision should be made by the end of this season," Valcke said in an interview.
He believes FIFA's rule-making panel could decide the issue next June, although worldwide trials are scheduled to run in competitions including the European Champions League for two more years. The five-officials system places an extra assistant beside each goal to advise the referee.
Raising standards of refereeing became a priority for FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter after a series of mistakes affected some 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa -- and a high-profile qualification playoff between France and Ireland -- bringing pressure on the governing body to act.
"In 2014, something has to be changed. We have only one goal following what has happened at the (2010) World Cup and that is to make sure we give as much support as we can to the referees," Valcke said.
Blatter's personal project is preparing a new generation of younger professional referees, and he relaxed his long-term defense of human error in on-field decisions by reopening the debate on using technology for goal-line rulings.
FIFA also is monitoring five-official trials which started in last season's second-tier Europa League competition and are intended to continue through June 2012 in national competitions in Brazil, France and Mexico.
However, Valcke said Tuesday that the next World Cup needs a decision before the trials end.
"We have to train referees. You can't just add two additional assistant referees in 12 months, they have to work together," he said.
The decision rests with the panel known as the International Football Association Board (IFAB), comprising FIFA officials plus leaders of the associations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Valcke will join IFAB in Newport, Wales, next week to assess the trials, review 13 proposed goal-line technology systems and start setting the agenda for its annual meeting in March which has power to change the laws of football.
He said the March gathering could agree to meet again in June "and just have a small meeting just to make this decision" on additional referees.
Valcke said match officials need to be working in teams of five at the traditional World Cup test event, the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, plus other elite competitions to prepare for intense scrutiny of their decisions at football's showpiece event.
"At the World Cup you have only 64 games so you can't have a single mistake. It has to be the best referees in the world."
The five-officials idea is credited to UEFA president Michel Platini, who believes it can eliminate the need for goal-line technology.
Valcke said IFAB has the option to write both innovations into football's rule book next year.
"The two fit well. You can have one or the other, but I think (with) the two together, I don't think there is any conflict," Valcke said, adding that a proven goal-line system could be in play within months. "If a system works then a system works."
FIFA's voting bloc means it can veto any IFAB proposal, and Valcke said the 13 competing goal-line projects had to guarantee providing the referee with an instant verdict on the field.
"The game should never be stopped to make sure that the decision is right or wrong. As soon as we do that we will lose all the beauty of the game."
Valcke said Blatter would soon deliver a draft of his referee training plan -- "It is his baby" -- and FIFA's Football and Technical committees are scheduled to get updates next week.
FIFA expects to make more demands on future World Cup referees to be fitter and have a sharp tactical understanding of the game, Valcke confirmed.
"A referee has to be as professional as a player today. The amateur side is over, it's finished."