Trial By Video or: How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Ref

Embracing human error.

Every week to a varying degree we hear a plethora of pundits and professionals call for the introduction of video technology.

A favourite observation being that it would only take seconds for an official on the sidelines to judge on controversial aspects of play. Its black and white we’re told. It’d make life easier for officials we’re told. It would take doubt from the game we’re told.

It just doesn’t add up though. How often do we see unanimous agreement across the board in a TV studio? Numerous replays of varying speeds from differing angles and they still manage to disagree. Yet we’re supposed to believe that an official with access to a video stream could make a decision in seconds and everybody would concur and be happy.

Was the foul inside the box? Did he get the ball? Were both feet off the ground? Ball to hand or hand to ball? Offside when the ball was played or just about on? Deliberate elbow or jumping for the ball? Was the whole of the ball over the whole of the line?

Instances where the conclusions of all those watching are the same must be incredibly rare if they exist at all. There are exceptions where a ball can be seen a yard inside the goal but they are mere exceptions and not the only reason video refereeing is pushed at us weekly. The dismay of pundits and the grasping of clichés in frustration at the lack of this technology reveal a total lack of thought about the practicalities in my opinion. Graeme Souness will often shake his head in dismay, Mark Lawrenson come up with a quip approaching humourous and Jamie Redknapp almost break out of his suit in Hulk-like rage, however would video evidence not just compound the problem?

Rational people, and I believe many still exist in football, will understand a referee cannot be expected to get it right all the time given the speed of the game. Would this courtesy be extended to officials charged with deciding key issues by video replay? Instead of enjoying the allowances a conventional referee sometimes gets, an official using video replays would have his tool turned upon him to be presented as evidence in post match trials.

How could he not see it? He saw the same thing we did. He watched the video, how did he miss that? Does he know the rules of the game? Should he be doing this job?

Manager rants which now start with the impressively ironic ‘I’m not going to talk about the referee but…’ would instead be launched with ‘I’m not going to talk about the video official but…’ and obviously followed by a rambling explanation as to why they couldn’t have been expected to get a better result given the unfair hand they were dealt.

It is part of the game to disagree about decisions and even when you hold the minority view to that of your fellow supporters it does not diminish the validity of that in your own mind.

It’s fanciful to expect that something as simple as video replays can right many perceived wrongs in the officiating of our opinion orientated game. Out of the frying pan and into the fire would be an appropriate cliché for the pundits to use on this one.

Follow Annie on Twitter @AnnieEaves

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