Serious changes are needed in football, with refereeing struggling to keep up with the pace of the game. Manchester City’s denied penalty and Arsenal’s Premier League loss as evidence…
There is no question that football has changed drastically over the last decade or two, with these changes largely down to the introduction of new technology and a desire to prevent serious injuries.
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Whether the recent changes have been to the benefit or the detriment of the game is a matter of much debate, with questions also raised over whether refereeing in football needs a massive overhaul in order to keep up with the fast paced nature of the modern game.
With rules becoming stricter, officials are forced to make game changing decisions in a split second- and with so much riding on each and every match, it is vital that referees are able to come to informed conclusions.
The introduction of goal-line technology has taken one of the biggest and most difficult decisions out of their hands, and while many may argue that it removes an element of excitement from the game, these are the moments that can win or lose your side the game and have to be called correctly.
Video and Hawkeye technology could certainly be integrated into other areas of the game, and if utilised properly would have little or no impact on the free flowing essence of the sport. Instances of offside could become far less controversial, with the current flawed system essentially relying on one man’s view from one angle.
One of the biggest changes however, has to be the education of the referees so that decisions remain correct and consistent wherever possible. Far too often you see two incredibly similar instances result in immensely different outcomes; which raises the question of whether referees really know their role.
Without more significant help from other sources, officials need not only to know the rules of the game inside and out, but need to be brave enough to make the tough decisions as well. It’s a sad fact of football that more often than not in the modern game you need to go down to earn the free kick. A major infringement can go unpunished when a player stays on his feet, while the softest fouls are often given when they go to ground theatrically.
This is not entirely down to the players though, and if we want them to stay on their feet where possible then we need our referees to be willing to give the foul regardless. When a player in the box knows he will be awarded the penalty for a foul whether he hits the deck or not, he will be far more willing to stay on his feet and continue his run.
The same rules applies for grappling in the box. When it so consistently goes unpunished, players are shocked when eventually penalised. The fact of the matter is that it is a clear and blatant foul, but when it is constantly ignored you can’t blame a player for feeling hard done by if singled out.
With the level of technology available, mistakes can be easily spotted and scrutinised. Any improvements to the rules or help that referees can get will therefore protect them from criticism and judgement from the public.
It’s often easier for officials to make the safe choice to avoid the backlash from the public, but when making the big decisions they have to get them right.
Sergio Aguero was not only denied a clear penalty in Manchester City’s recent 3-0 win over Southampton, he was also booked for diving. The commentators and everyone at home could see it was a penalty, and if that decision had have drastically altered the outcome of the match then the referee would have been a target for abuse.
Earlier in the season Arsenal salvaged a 2-2 draw against Everton, but were left feeling aggrieved due to the referee and linesman missing both a foul and an offside decision in the build-up to one of the Toffees’ goals.
Referees are not superhuman and they are bound to make mistakes, but when we have the means to eradicate or reduce the volume of these mistakes then it is a travesty that we don’t do so.
Football will continue to change and evolve whether we want it to or not, and refereeing needs to be able to keep up. But is it a matter of a few tweaks here and there, or do we need to see some radical changes for the sake of the beautiful game?