It seemed like it was never going to happen, but (the well documented) goal-line technology was finally introduced into many of the top flight tiers of European football over the last couple of seasons and made its World Cup debut at Brazil 2014. Too late for it to have made any impact on Frank Lampard’s famous goal versus the auld enemy in the first knock-out stage of the tournament in South Africa four years earlier, but it still represented a big leap forward in the progression of the beautiful game.
Given the enormity of football nowadays, especially after staggering amounts of money have been invested into the Premier League and its knock on effect encompassing world record breaking transfers, massively inflated end of season league standing payouts and a greater expectation from clubs and fans alike, it seems to me that goal-line technology should be seen as the first of many steps in taking away any ambiguity or the potential for bias or incorrect decisions from the man in the middle, the referee. Why should so much rest on one man? It’s Ludogorets…sorry ludicrous.
We hear every week on Match of the Day how the ref has a difficult job keeping up with the fast and frenetic pace of the Premier league but we still have to sit and listen to the pundits berating the officials for unacceptable levels of performance. So I say it’s time for video refereeing, like we see in both codes of rugby and other internationally recognised sports. Surely all football fans want to see fairness and transparency throughout the game and not have to accept the decisions of one man, usually donned in black, as the sole reason for their team losing a player, being knocked out of the cup, dropping vital points or some other similar travesty even if he was blatantly wrong. There have also been cases when the ref has admitted responsibility for making a wrong decision post match, which as we know cannot be overturned. A video ref would help vastly reduce/eradicate such occurrences and mean that fans are not left feeling aggrieved as they contemplate a miserable Saturday evening.
The arguments for not embracing video refereeing are weak as it is a fallacy that it would detrimentally impinge on the game and redefine its general flow, the phrase stop-start being bandied about. This would not be the case at all as the 5th official or man in the stand with access to live video surveillance of the game (known as the TMO or Television Match Official in rugby) would have direct audio communication with the ref and be able to advise him about decisions and therefore only call for a break in the game if there was a justifiable reason for doing so. It is usually the case (is it not?) that there is a suspension in the game following a penalty decision, disallowed goal for offside or a potential red card offence anyway and certainly enough time for the TMO to have a look at the incident from multiple angles (in much the same way as we the viewing public are privy to thanks to the broadcaster) and make a more accurate decision. If the TMO cannot substantiate a decision even after their review then the call cannot be made.
Ultimately, the referee’s position on the pitch is for the purpose of aiding with the smooth running of the game, to protect the players and to ensure that players adhere to the rules. The new television ref would not be replacing him but, similarly as in rugby, assisting him by providing more accurate information and ensuring the correct decision was made and that the end result was a fair one. I am 100% certain that the TMO would not completely eradicate the need for heated debate after a match and that very close calls could still be contested long after a match had finished. However, there would be a great deal more fairness involved, which as a great lover of football could only be a good thing, right?
Given that the football authorities already put too much on the referee’s plate, I would also implement an official timekeeper, someone on the sideline or in the stand whose job it was to ensure the correct amount of time was played and added on before half-time and full-time. Not only would this represent a more accurate approach to the matter but would relinquish this duty from the ref, allowing him instead to concentrate on the game. It seems so ridiculously simple in essence for these suggestions to be implemented that you wonder if there is an ulterior motive by the powers that be not wishing to embrace them. Do they feel they would be forfeiting their control over a referee and being able to manipulate the outcome of a match? With all of the well documented and proven corruption in world football over the years, finally culminating with the suspension of the seemingly untouchable Sepp Blatter and his 17 year walk on ice, then it’s hard not to harbour such suspicions.
I realise that I am not alone with my ideas regarding the progression of football and I appreciate that these implementable measures could and would only benefit the elite leagues and international tournaments given the resources and financial backing required, in a similar way to goal-line technology. However, it is the elite leagues that draw in the bigger crowds, the viewing figures and the global support. I for one would be in favour of a fairer system as I’ve described and not simply putting my hopes and my team’s hopes in a 40 something ex P.E. teacher from Reading getting the big decisions right. The referee should not decide the result of a game. Fact. I feel I should now set up a petition. Perhaps if we get over 100,000 signatures then we can force the FA to consider the motion. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t hold out much hope.
Let me know what your thoughts are. This topic has got legs me feels.