This season has seen the introduction of technology into football (well, the Premier League) for the first time. However, at the moment the only aspect of the game that the new system is covering is whether or not a ball crosses the goal line or not. Whilst this is progress and a long-awaited breakthrough for the sport in general, surely the highly controversial incident at the weekend proved that it needs to be taken a step further.
Arsenal were already 2-0 down by the time Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deliberately handled a wayward shot wide of the post. However, Kieran Gibbs was sent off for the offence instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain, despite the latter clearly telling the referee that it was him. Andre Marriner must have surely been the only person in the stadium to not know that it was Oxlade-Chamberlain who had handled the ball and yet he’s the one person who makes the crucial decision and he can only judge what he saw, or thought he saw.
With so much money at stake on almost every game at the highest level, it’s baffling that the powers that be aren’t allowing referees the chance to get the crucial decisions right when there’s an element of doubt. Goal line technology has rightly been brought in as it was (correctly) perceived that a ball crossing a line was not something which could be judged and that it was a “fact”. Penalty decisions, whether they be for fouls or hand ball, are completely different as interpretations are still different and it isn’t “black and white” like a goal being scored or not. In other words, you can watch a replay of a penalty decision (or claim) and still be unable to decide whether it’s a penalty or not and fans of opposing teams would still argue bitterly for or against a penalty decision. However, sending off the right player falls into the same category as a ball crossing a goal line in the sense that it’s something which can’t be interpreted differently. It’s a certainty.
It’s really embarrassing how referees in this sport are at such a disadvantage that even those watching, both in the stands and at home, have a much clearer view of what’s happening than the person who is actually attempting to officiate. The armchair fans are given the replays and they have no influence on the decision whatsoever. Yet the referee still only has a fraction of a second in real time to call it and no second chance. Other sports don’t have these problems – rugby referees can ask a colleague to review an incident on a screen if in doubt, cricket umpires have the DRS (Decision Review System) and even tennis has a hawk-eye system. All of these help the officials do their jobs and eliminate such high-profile mistakes as that which happened at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Whilst it’s true that if the referee was unsure then he shouldn’t have given it or sent either player off. However, Marriner did see the handball and he thought that he would have to brandish a red card. TV replays showed that the shot by Eden Hazard may have been going wide therefore, by the letter of the law, the red card should never have come out of the pocket in the first place. Again though, Marriner had little to no chance of realising this in live play and with the incident happening so quickly. He really was in a no-win situation as, without the opportunity of seeing it again, he couldn’t be certain what to give and was always likely of calling it wrong.
Whilst it was a strange mistake to make and a major blunder which Andre Marriner will want to forget, the only reason why the correct decision wasn’t reached was because of the lack of assistance Marriner had. Whilst using technology to dispute every intricate detail of the game wouldn’t be a good thing, there simply has to be a monitor of some sort which shows the same amount of replays as we regularly see on TV and from various different angles. Otherwise Kieran Gibbs might not be the only player having to endure an early bath for no reason whatsoever.