So we have reached crunch time of the football season, every goal, every decision, every missed chance will now definine your clubs year. The difference between success, failure and mediocracy can be very little. With so much riding on each game it is often the man in the middle who comes under most scruitiny. A bad penalty decision or offside call may cost a team their season. These decisions sadly effect more than just a good day out for the fans. The sorry financial state of football means failure on the pitch can have a knock on effect for years to come as clubs financial predictions usually rely on their team reaching certain targets. I’m not going to blame this on referee’s, the problem is largely due to mismanagement, but we do have a situation where one bad call could even be the difference between a clubs existance or not. Most importantly bad refereeing effects our enjoyment of the sport. Ask a fan where their season went wrong and I guarentee most will recall a bad decision that cost them a game (at least Bradford fans will). Watch a game in a pub and the talking point will be all too often the referee. I understand I may be presenting a rather cynical view of the game but what I am trying to do, in a rather long winded way, is to bring up the argument for video technology.
Refereeing a football game is a difficult task and I don’t want to take anything away from the job they do. However the three men in black are no longer sufficient enough to officiate to the standards we expect. TV replays mean every call is under intense scruitiny, we all know better with heinseight, and multiple camera angles. We all know this within seconds of the incident, during which time the game has stopped while the ref shepherds away the hoards of protesting players. Surely the time would be better spent taking a quick look up at the screen? Problem solved. It seems a no brainer, but of course there is much more to it than that.
FIFA seem dead set against the idea and are rolling out alternative options such as the fourth and fifth officials seen in the Europa League. My favourite so far is the introduction of segways in next seasons Blue Square Premier so linesmen can keep up to the pace of play. My thinking is the Blue Square Premier may not be the most effective test for this particular new technology. Joking aside why would FIFA be so against video technology? First of all it would represent one of the biggest changes the game has seen, it is a massive decision to make. There are fears it could effect the rhythm and flow of a game, as I have pointed out action replays can be seen within seconds but how far do you go with it? Then there is the issue of restarting play, it is not always going to be cut and dry. For example with a turned down penalty appeal or offside appeal. These thing need careful consideration.
Rugby League is usually seen as the perfect example of how to use the technology and the fast paced nature of the sport means it is the closest comparison we have to football. Fans seemed to quickly warm to the change and it appears to have intergrated seamlessly into the game, even adding to the excitement. However scratch under the surface and you find all is not all so rosy. There are concerns it adds inconsistency to the sport, the technology is not the same for non televised games as it is for those shown live. This means the top teams enjoy the ‘advantage’ of video refereeing on a far more regular basis than others. Apply this inconsistency to football and you are adding to the list of so called advantages the big clubs have over their rivals. Footballs superior coverage should however mean these inconsistencies would not occur, at least within the same league. Of course there is the argument any change should reach down to the grass roots of the sport.This is never going to be possible for obvious reasons but for me it is not a good enough excuse to not to introduce the technology where possible.
Video technology does not represent an advantage, the officials remain impartial. What it does do is provide clarity and put a stop to poor decisions. The pace of the modern game is such that ref’s are often behind play and in no position to make a well judged call. Theo Walcott this week said he can do the 100m in 10.3 seconds, need I say more. The most important consideration is how and when to use it, it cannot replace the referee, merely compliment him or her. This means only using it when is strictly necesarry, such as to determine wether the ball crossed the goal line. I think it could also be used for difficult penalty decisions and crutial offside calls. The referee’s would have to use their own discretion when deciding to go to the replays.This way it will not spoil the flow of the game, it may not even be needed in most games. I’m sure referee’s will have the common sense and awareness to know when they need help. The point is if we have the tecnology on hand why not use it in those instances where it is needed. By searching for alternative solutions FIFA are aknowleging there is a problem, why not just accept the obvious resolution? Video technology now plays a part in most major sports, generally to good effect. Yes there may be teething problems and it may not be perfect, but neither are referee’s. I have a feeling FIFA bigwigs may just come round to the idea if a bad decision costs their team the World Cup this summer. Unless of course they are in their pockets afterall.