Video Killed The Referee’s Star

The case for video technology grows with every game that is played. Or that is the way that it seems to the media. This weeks Premiership match at Anfield and last night’s UEFA Cup tie at the Reebok Stadium both had incidents where the officials got it wrong. And not just a little bit wrong, they got it horribly wrong. Adebayour was definitely onside and since when has palming the ball off of a forwards head not been punishable by a penalty, as happened last night. This is the first bridge to be crossed; do we accept that the officials are fallible and as long as the decisions are made honestly then that is part and parcel of the game. Whilst everyone wants to see the correct decision made, it has always been part of the game that the Referees decision is final and it is a real struggle to remember FIFA or any governing body deciding that the officials got it so wrong that a match has to be replayed – last years World Cup qualifying match in Asia being the only instance I can think of.

The second issue is then creating the parameters for the use of such technology. Is this for all incidents in the match or just for disputed goals. i.e. has the whole of the ball crossed the line, which seems to be the current favourite. Personally, if we must have such technology, then I see little benefit for just applying it to certain disputed incidents on the goalline. Given that these are few and far between, why invest money just for the purposes? The most problematic issue, and the one that has stopped this technology being used before, is how to the Referee will liaise with the newly appointed VideoRef. Sports that already use VideoRefs fall into two categories: those that have natural stoppages, such as American Football and Cricket, and those that already have a mechanism in place to deal with the incidents that occur. In Rugby Union for example, the VideoRef ajudicates on whether a try is scored in situations where the Referee cannot decide if the ball was grounded or whether the try-scorer went into touch. In these instances, the ball is dead anyway. If the try is awarded fine, the conversion is attempted. If it isn’t then it has always been the case that a Drop Out at the 22 metre line or a 5 metre Scrum restarts the game.

In football there is no mechanism. If the Referee cannot decide if the whole of the ball has crossed the line then play continues. To stop the game awaiting another officials decision punishes both sides. How? Obviously the attacking side cannot score from the rebound. The defending side is punished as they cannot create a counter-attack. And what happens in the following scenario. Rooney shoots, hits the bar, ball is volleyed clear by Campbell and no-one can see if the whole of the ball crossed the line. Now the referee is reacting to the situation, and just suppose in the twenty seconds he takes to blow up, the following takes place: Campbell’s volley bounces just in side his own half, Ferdinand misjudges it, Henry gains possession, sprints away and scores. If you don’t believe the speed of it all, look at Henry’s goal against the Tiny Tots a couple of seasons ago at Highbury – he picked the ball up midway in his own half, beat three or four players and put the ball in the back of the net within 15 seconds of initally collecting the ball. So how does the referee deal with this? Does he call the play back, wiping the goal out? What if the ball hadn’t crossed the line from Rooney’s shot? He has denied Arsenal a perfectly good goal and given Manchester United an advantage? The only fair outcome is a penalty to Arsenal – although this still leaves open the very real possibility of the penalty being saved. The problem football has is that it is a free flowing game. The only breaks are for fouls, the ball going out of play or the half is over.

So I say, leave football alone. We all get infuriated by the officials decisions. We feel robbed when they go against us and believe justice is done when they go for us, even if they are wrong. My platform and manifesto for the next FIFA Presidency Election is Stuff it Blatter – we don’t want your interference. Feel better now that I’ve got that off my chest.

The referee for Saturdays’ cup tie at Anfield has apparently told Gary Neville not to antagonise the Liverpool fans during the game which will be some sort of herculean feat as “The Red Neville” tends to antagonise people by breathing. But maybe the FA has appointed God as the Referee and then of course, he would be able to influence this situation. Perhaps the officials are the Holy Trinity, God in the middle, Jesus Christ and The Holy Ghost are running the line. Maybe The Virgin Mary is the fourth official. This would stop the fallibility of the decisions made being called into question. It would certainly be interesting on the touchline. When a decision goes against Ferguson’s team, the exhortation, “Jesus Christ Ref!” would probably be met with “Nope, I’m running the line” whilst Benitez and his Spanish counterparts are instantly at a disadvantage as “Madre de Dios” would be met with a quizzical look and a response of “Yes?” from the fourth official.

Todays Tunes is a recording from last nights Brits of Paul Wellers performance. The following link takes you through to the index, Paul Weller at The Brits 2006

Setlist is:

Introduction by Ray Winstone and Acceptance Speech
Come On, Let’s Go
The Changing Man
From The Floorboards Up
Town Called Malice
Broken Stones (Guitar Version)

This blog is dedicated to Mike Hately and “Rent – A – Mob” Bob C, party man for hire – except on Valentine’s Night when he’s not allowed out to play, upsetting my wife more than anyone else cos it meant she had to watch Liverpool v Arsenal. None it would have been possible without you Guys.