If this sounds familiar to you it is because we’ve been discussing this last year already. Yet again – and very early in the season too – West Ham have suffered from a shocking refereeing display and I am not even talking about the inept efforts at the Europa League qualifying stage.
Anthony Taylor for sure was not in the mood to give anything for the home team on Saturday, his decision near the end of the first half NOT to award a penalty to West Ham and send Leicester’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel off for holding out his arm in the box to clearly stop Sakho from following up the ball massively changed the odds for West Ham to turn the first half deficit into a draw or even a home win in the second half.
I hate to blame referees for all and sundry as obviously West Ham didn’t play well in the first half and maybe overall deserved to lose the game.
But it’s become a quite regular occurrance that refs (at least in the Premier League) get one or two big decisions wrong every weekend. I am talking about big decisions here: penalty or no penalty, sending off or just a yellow card, goal scored from an offside position, stuff like that which can really affect final scorelines.
And it’s not German pedantry or nitpicking on my part either. Those big decision can lose a team vital points that ultimately have a much bigger impact: League position, progressing in a cup competition, relegation, qualifying for the Europa or Champions League. Jobs are on the line here and I’m not just talking about the players or managers, it can and does affect clubs in a big way.
The answer is very simple in my view – take a book out of how they deal with these things in US sports for instance. I do follow all American sports with interest, baseball, American Football, Ice Hockey. They all have ways and means to overrule a controversial decision on the pitch. You might say that those sports are very stop start anyway, so a further delay doesn’t really matter so much as it would in football. And I know that football as the globally most loved sport tends to hang on to its rules and traditions a bit longer than might be healthy in some cases. But remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. It wasn’t too long ago that no substitute players were allowed in football.
There was a time when there were no players’ names on the back of the shirt. Back in the day the goalkeeper could still pick up every backpass without being penalised. There’s goalline technology now and referees are armed with vanishing spray to mark the position of the wall for a freekick.
In all of these cases there were frowns and doubts from diehard oldschool fans initially, but I reckon most football fans are glad that now those changes have been made.
In terms of the substitutes on the bench it is a necessity of course, in my view it’s the same with handing over certain decisions to a video referee.
In baseball and football these are initiated by a manager’s or coaches challenge, in the dugout they have their own TV people who within seconds indicate to the manager if the incident is worth challenging. There’s then two ways of going about this: In American Football the umpire crew on the field checks out the replays on the sidelines, looking at as many replays as they need (but usually this is done within 60 seconds), they can then uphold or overrule their initial call on the field.
In baseball this decision is being handled by an operations center in Manhattan where every single game is being monitored on several screens and from several angles.
It is them who view the replays and then relay their decision back to the umpire crew in the respective ballpark. In this case the video referee does have the final decision.
Again those instant replay decisions usually don’t last longer than 60 seconds.
In Ice Hockey the referees themselves decide to ask for clarification from the instant replay headquarters in Toronto if they are unsure if a goal should stand or not.
I feel it is time to introduce similare measures in football (at least at the Premier League level). As a fan you want the referee to get the big decisions right and with the speed of the game these days and so much hinging on the referee’s whistle it is natural for referees to be a bit overchallenged at times (pun fully intended). It is not about mocking referees in general or questioning their efforts.
It is about giving them some much needed assistance in order for them to get the big decisions right and maybe even gain more respect from the fans in the process.
Give each manager one challenge per half. if it is just one this makes sure that the managers use it when it’s needed for a big call rather than use it in a sinister way to halt the flow of the game or stop the opposition’s momentum.
The time it usually takes for the players to moan and argue with the referee (and for the TV station to show replays of the incident from three different angles) can be used in a much better way for a video referee to have a look and then give his decision on the big screen (like in rugby league). Rather than just delaying proceedings on the pitch I feel this would even add to the suspense and drama of it all. Plus you get more decisions right obviously. Which to me is the main point.
Do manager’s cahllenges and the introduction of video referees in football remove controversy and heated discussions in the pubs afterwards from the equation ?
Of course not. There will still be plenty of incidents to talk about. But you won’t have to talk about referees getting it so wrong in such a shocking way quite so often anymore. Which can only be a good thing.