It’s time for video referees

This isn’t a new problem or a modern phenomena but it is no less annoying…

Yet another footballing weekend has been dominated by poor decisions. It has got to farcical levels – the Victor Moses ‘incident’ was simply ridiculous. He dived/simulated/cheated whatever you want to call it but for some reason Alan Shearer was terrified to label him a ‘cheat’ last night on Match of the Day 2. I somehow think that if it had been someone like Luis Suarez who had done the same that the condemnation would have been universal. Mark Hughes couldn’t even look the camera in the eye when he was trying to defend him. It would have been nice if Sparky had just been honest and admitted that his player had conned the referee and his team had benefited. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t throw his player under the bus which is understandable but it doesn’t help the situation. Hughes did later admit that Garry Monk had been naive with his comments.

Garry Monk will no doubt be fined for his comments but I feel the Premier League has a responsibility to the coaches and fans to give this matter the proper attention it deserves. The Premier League happily takes the TV money from broadcasters and obliges managers & players to front up to the cameras in the heat of the moment just after a match has finished and then punishes them for giving their opinion, which seems pretty unfair.

No-one is suggesting that refereeing at Premier League/Football League level is not incredibly difficult but the standards of officiating are at best inconsistent and at worst are incompetent. You can pretty pick any match and see that the too often big calls aren’t being dealt with correctly. Take the Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur match as an example, of course it is unusual for four penalties to be given in a game but the first City penalty was an absolute nonsense and the Spurs penalty was outside the box.

Referee’s are human beings and it is clear that they are being influenced by the manager’s, player’s and the crowd. As the MOTD2 pundits pointed out you could sense that Michael Oliver was looking to even things up after giving Swansea a penalty at the Britannia. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that Soldado would have been awarded a penalty at the Etihad Stadium if the score had been 0-0 and City hadn’t already been given two spot-kicks.

There is a vicious cycle in football – everyone says they abhor diving but referees don’t give penalties/free-kicks unless a player goes to go ground so you are encouraging players to exaggerate/manufacture contact. You get no reward for being honest in football – so if you can’t beat them why not join them?

Of course, players aren’t helping officials by conning them so it makes life incredibly difficult for the man in the middle to be 100% sure of a decision in real time especially when football these days is played at such a frentic pace.

Retrospective punishments for simulation need to be introduced if we are serious about eradicating diving from the modern game. This also would give clubs the opportunity to appeal yellow cards that players have been given for diving if they can demonstrate that the player was fouled.

I’m sure FIFA, UEFA et al. would prefer the Premier League and so on to introduce extra officials to assist referees but as the majority of recent Champions League and Europa League games have demonstrated these people contribute next to nothing and actively don’t want to get involved in the decision making process.

Real help is at hand though – why not have a video referee to review decisions? Give managers/teams three challenges as they do in tennis? The arguments to this will inevitably be the following – this will destroy the essence of football, human error is part of the game, it will take too long for decisions to be made, it will make the game too stop-start etc.

I don’t buy any of these objections – I may be alone in this view but I want the right decision to be made, even if it goes against my team. I’m fed up of watching matches that are decided by the officials not by the players. I’m not suggesting that every minute decision is reviewed and contested but the challenge system would be there for penalties, red cards and when goals are disallowed. We have goal line technology now so why not embrace the 21st century?

We live in age when replays are instantaneous so it would not slow the match down.

I very much doubt that anything will change – look how long it took before we got the vanishing spray into European football but that doesn’t mean that changes shouldn’t be made. While I’m on this subject why doesn’t the clock just stop in football when the ball goes out of play? This would eliminate the problem of everyone in the stadium and watching at home being baffled at the amount of/or lack thereof of injury time added on at the end of a match. It would also help to minimise timewasting.

Maybe I’m too naive to think that football should be about skill and effort rather than gamesmanship or are we already too far gone?