Saturday, 27 September 2008

Let Justice be done (or at least be on the agenda)

Once again the merry theme music of MotD fades away, and no-one has discussed the crying need for a serious review of the officials within the beautiful game.

Once again, there were refereeing decisions which
1) generate joy or anger in equal proportions among the loyal fans
2) promote or relegate teams (representing dozens of millions of pounds of revenue) and
3) bring the game into disrepute with anyone who cares about things being right and just and proper.

The shame and embarassment of the FA having to overturn the 3-match ban for John Terry following his non-foul the other week could have been avoided. The disgraceful penalty decision in today's match where Bolton's Jlloyd Samuel took the ball skillfully and cleanly off the toe of Ronaldo, who then appeared to dive, should have repercussions which shake the officiating system to its roots. United went on to win the match 2-0.

Now, all I ask is that the referee be given the help which is already available. The caneras are already in place; the technology is there to provide a video judge with the opportunity to examine the slow-mo/multi-view/action replay footage and make the decison based on that.

It is now very common in top-flight rugby, which is another of those free-flowing games (unlike cricket, which is a game that takes five days to complete and never seems to begin) where the VJ can be called in when the ball has gone out of play.

The only other change this sort of innovation would need, it seems to me, is that perhaps another couple of linesmen (let's not pretend they are assistant referees, whatever their official titles may be) can signal 'I think there was an infringement there, so let's talk about it when the ball goes dead'. The sytem works well in American Football, which while being a little more stop-start than soccer, the idea of throwing down a flag at least gives the chance for advantages to be played.

Then if a penalty decision needs to be made, like the one today, we wait until the ball goes out of play, ask the advice of the VJ and take it from there. If ia penalty is given, then so be it. If not, then we play on from where the ball went out of play. If it's a 'did it cross the line?' decision, then again the same principles can be applied.

The same aplies to offsides. If we think it might have been, then check. If it was, then the freekick applies. If it isn't offside, then we continue from where the ball gos out of play.

And let's not have any nonsense about 'oh, but the play might go on for a while before the ball happens to go out of play... are we really going to wipe out five minutes and wind the clock back?' The first thing that'll happen after an offside question is asked will be that the aggrieved side will hoof the ball into row Z in order to look at the video.

The reason why this isn't happening?

Who knows. As managers say, it's not for us to comment. 'We can't rely on the officials; we must see our destiny is in our own hands.'

On the other hand, possibly pride or arrogance is keeping the referre from acknowledging that the game is much harder to police these days. It used to be less of a strain, but now that those chaps in black have to apply the rules, watch for off-the-ball incidents, keep time, make split-second decisions and watch out for the health of players involved in collisions or gaining injuries. As well as being in exactly the right place to see whatever incident is in question. Oh, and carrying on the match ball having ajudged the suitability of the pitch before the game starts. It's too much for any man, isn't it. No shame in admitting 'I need help' when that's been blindingly obvious to every football spectator for the past dozen seasons.

One final point. Is it right that a man earning a small match fee should be able to make financial decisions worth tens of millions of pounds? Can he really have the respect of players who earn more in one week than he sees in several years, in some cases? Little wonder refs are not give the honour they might warrant, when some of them are blantantly not very good at their job. The rest of us face disciplinary statements on our record, written warnings and ultimately the sack if we are shown to be consistently incompetent...

No comments: