Another weekend of Premier League action and the familiar cries of foul play are aimed at the officials. This time it was about goals that were revealed to be offside in subsequent television replays during the Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City clash. The officials unfairly take the criticism for errors made and Saturday’s referee has been at the centre of a storm before.
Mark Clattenburg shouldn’t be held solely accountable for Saturday’s mistakes, but he was also the man in charge when Tottenham scored a goal against Manchester United, only for Roy Carroll to famously palm it out of the harm’s way when it was two yards over the line and it not be given. Perhaps Clattenburg is a pioneer for ensuring technology is introduced.
But the ref’s job is a thankless task. The game moves too fast for one human trying to keep up with play, and assistants placed further away, to correctly judge it 100% of the time. With the introduction of goal line technology we took a step in the right direction. Now we need to complete the journey. It’s time for video replays to used and provide the sort of assistance the referee desperately needs.
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For years FIFA, namely Sepp Blatter, was against any form of technology enhancing the game. They had the vision that grass roots football could be officiated no differently than the World Cup final. It was a romantic idea but there’s too much at stake in the professional game to allow human error to shape destinies any longer.
It’s estimated 30% of incorrect decisions could be ruled out with video technology assisting the referee. Many people like the way a bad call from the ref or a linesman changes a match. I’d say there’s enough excitement in the game to remove illegal goals or those prone to simulation. There’s no need or place for either.
Another concern is it will slow the game, that the current flow is part of football’s charm. I say it would actually be quicker for a video review panel to slow down a replay, determine the correct form of action, and buzz the referee accordingly compared to the current situation where the ref and his assistant have a speculative chat on the side lines. We’d speed up the game, going from minutes to thirty seconds.
That sounds overly optimistic but fans in the pub see, and judge, an incident long before the man with the whistle in his mouth has moved toward his incorrect declaration.
Certain rules would have to be applied. The panel would have a set period of time to buzz the officials before having to accept the window of appeal has closed. This would show that decisions too close to call even with a replay should be left to the ref’s discretion. Note how I’ve used the term “Panel.” It would have to be a team of three, each with a vote, this way there’s always a majority and any calls of human error from the person watching the video are diluted.
Football leads sport in many respects, it seems ridiculous they continue to offer their officials no protection on the pitch. Video replays haven’t harmed other sports, there’s no reason to fear their introduction into the beautiful game.
Cost needn’t be a consideration. The rollout costs of goal line technology were for a brand new system. Video replays are already used, they just aren’t shared with the match day officials. If the implementation is restricted to the top flight it spares lower leagues the financial burden. We’ve already created tiers of officiating with the partial introduction of goal line technology to just the top leagues and tournaments. For the same reasons video reviews can be slowly rolled out to those best placed to facilitate them.
Think how lovely it’d be to remove offside goals (and the excuses they afford the punished team), diving, violent conduct and off-the-ball incidents. Goal line technology has opened the door to a world that eradicates unnecessary mistakes. Football needs to fully embrace all new methods at its disposal.