Time for change.
Is it just me or in the last couple of seasons has refereeing of the game, analysis of decisions and more recently the use of technology suddenly become a weekly if not a daily debate. Now I am sure fans have been arguing these same points on terraces and in pubs since the game began – but recently it seems to have stepped up a notch.
Is this because the referees are getting worse? Is it because there is more televised football than ever? Is it because there is more at stake in every game played? It is possibly a combination of the three. With Managers shooting their mouths off and getting bans weekly and teams losing millions because the referee has incorrectly awarded a penalty or not seen the ball cross the line – something has got to change, or has it?
For the purpose of this article I will not condemn referees for being unfit, or unskilled or suggest that the problems could be fixed with more officials behind goals, in goals or hanging off the crossbar – there will always be human error and whilst some refs are better than others they are all trying to do the best job they can.
There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to the officiating of the game. There are those that believe that it’s all “swings and roundabouts” and decisions will even themselves out over the course of a season. Those who subscribe to the ‘playground’ theory also often like to suggest that this is what makes football so great, the debating of decisions in the pub after, or the chance these errors give to a minnow who with a slice of luck (or bad decision) sends a heavyweight crashing out of the cup. In the other corner are those who think that referees need more help, because that last minute penalty given against Blackpool on the final day of the season could send them down – and it needs to be 100% right, or at least 95%. I fall in to the second school of thinkers – we need technology to help referees because decisions are too important in the modern game to get wrong. I am sure most fans would prefer to be singing and dancing in the street because their team had justly won the cup than sat in the pub debating the fact that they should have had a last minute penalty and what could have been.
You will notice that Managers will swing between the two schools of thought depending on whether the decision went for them or against them. Arsene Wenger recently said that he thought Football should have the appeal system, first endorsed by tennis and now found in cricket. One argument against this is that it would slow the game down, however the maximum time it seems to take in cricket, where let’s remember they are trying to detect whether there was even the slightest touch of leather on willow from a ball travelling at 140 km per hour, is probably 2 minutes.
It takes the same time for players to argue with the ref, then organise the wall, then wait as the kick taker goes through a lengthy routine of placing the ball and staring into the distance whilst the ref minces about telling anyone who will listen that they must wait for his whistle (whatever happened to the quick free kick). I just don’t think it is a valid argument.
If you only have two appeals then I doubt you will waste it on a free kick or yellow card. I think there also has to be a framework so that possibly only Penalties, Sending Offs or allowed / disallowed goals can be appealed – but I am sure this can be worked on as the game gets accustomed.
Having said all of this the reality is that it is hard enough to get FIFA to even consider using goal line technology which as far as I am aware there is no argument against except that it is only 99.99% accurate, clearly Blatter and his lap dogs believe a linesman squinting from 40 yards away at a ball travelling at 100km per hour and with only a second to decide, is far more accurate. I think we are still 10 years away from bringing in technology which is sad as almost every other major sport now utilizes these tools and with no repercussions to date.
At the least I believe goal line technology must be brought in, and hopefully this would highlight the benefits and more importantly rectify some appalling and embarrassing decisions that not only the fans but the referees have had to endure. Many argue that technology would undermine the referee and his authority.
However I am sure if you asked Andre Mariner and his assistant, the officials in question for the recent and controversial Chelsea v Spurs match, whether they wished someone up in the gantry looking at a TV screen had been able to see that Gomes had stopped the ball crossing the line I am sure they would have welcomed the help. This wrong decision could be huge for both teams this season and could so easily have been avoided.
Frank Lampard joked that he was owed one after his goal was disallowed against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, and no one would begrudge him that, although I am sure Spurs would have preferred his pay back to come at another time. We will all remember in that match Germany went on to thump England 4-1 so the attitude seems to be that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, or maybe it would have, who knows? All we are asking is for a fair and level playing field so that there aren’t any what ifs.
The strange thing with the Lampard goal is that it should have raised the issue to a level where it was felt that something needed to be done, but it seems that because it was widely accepted that the decision was not decisive in the result, it was not as important.
I will leave you with the words of Ian Holloway commenting on the use of video technology:
“Let’s get every decision right and we’ll all be buzzing”