Time for video replays?




 The new season is barely a couple of weeks old in Europe, yet already we have seen enough controversial incidents for the subject video evidence to be raised again.

Possibly the worst refereeing decision since…..well last season at Watford I suppose….occurred at Bristol City last week where Crystal Palace had a goal disallowed because, despite the reactions of defending players, attacking players & fans, referee Rob Shoebridge didn’t realise that the ball had gone in. It seems Shoebridge – and his assistant – were the only people at Ashton Gate not to notice! Similarly at Watford last season Stuart Atwell awarded Reading a goal despite the ball going 3 metres wide!

At the Emirates last week Celtic’s Champions League hopes – already hanging precariously in the balance – were ended by a blatant piece of cheating when Arsenal striker Eduardo fooled the referee with a theatrical dive which won a penalty. It was a clear dive and fooled no one inside the Emirates nor in the millions watching world wide. You didn’t need to see a replay to know it was a dive, yet somehow Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez awarded a penalty.

These three incidents all have one common ingredient – apart from the obvious injustices – all were televised and everybody watching knew that the referees had made serious mistakes within seconds of the incidents occurring.  If we tv watchers can see quickly and clearly that these major decisions are wrong then it begs the question “why cant someone at the game advise the referee?”

Many other sports use video replays to adjudicate on potentially crucial moments. In cricket, tennis and rugby, video replays are now part and parcel of the game. Its true to say, though, that all those sports have “natural” stoppages in play whilst football tends to be a far more fluid sport. Thus, the overuse of video replays potentially disrupts the flow of the Beautiful Game.

However, in all three cases above, play was stopped by virtue of the ball going out of play. Given that in all cases play remained stopped as players protested the referees’ absurd decisions, it is fair to say that a quick look at a replay wouldn’t have affected the fluidity of the game.

One area of contention though, is what decisions should be referred to video? It is surely ridiculous for a 4th or 5th official to be watching every incident and checking that the referee is correct.  Every team accepts that you get some decisions and you don’t get others. We also acknowledge that referees are human and make mistakes. However it is clear that there are some decisions which are greater than others. Would it be so difficult to have an official in a position to radio the referee when incorrect match changing decisions are made?

In the 21st century football is big business. Refereeing decisions can cost clubs millions of dollars. The technology is there to ensure that blatantly wrong decisions can be avoided. Why don’t we use it?


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