Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Recent Football Matches Highlight the Case for Video Referees

The first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on 27 April contained one of the greatest goals since Diego Maradona graced the world's football fields. However sadly the game will not be remembered for this, but more for the allegations of cheating, diving and conspiracy that dogged the fixture as both clubs made allegations against the other.

 

FC Barcelona have asked UEFA to intervene following claims made by Real's Manager Jose Mourinho that a conspiracy exists to favour the Catalan club. In reply, Real Madrid have reported FC Barcelona to UEFA over 'feigned aggressions' (read ‘diving’) that allegedly led to the dismissal of defender Pepe. UEFA has also launched its own investigations into both clubs. The Guardian's 'Secret Footballer' expressed his disgust at what football has become.

 

Sir Alex Ferguson has just returned from a five-game touchline ban for criticising the referee, yet that didn’t stop him blaming the referee for failing to award a penalty during Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal on 1 May. Ferguson now faces yet another investigation by the FA. Tottenham Hotspur also missed out after a referee awarded a goal to Chelsea on 1 May when TV replays showed that goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes stopped the ball from crossing the line. Again, the referee was blamed for failing to award the goal.

 

FIFA’s argument against video replays is that they would ruin the flow of the game, however other sports have coped with video replays for a number of years. Its solution to the perceived injustices in football is goal line technology that could relay a decision back to the referee about whether a ball has crossed the line in under one second. FIFA has recently announced that it will continue its testing, as it has yet to find a system that is up to scratch.

 

Such a system already exists. Most stadiums are equipped with big screens that could replay goal line incidents instantly, as happened during the World Cup, when Mexico were furious after an in-stadium screen showed everyone that Carlos Tevez was offside when scoring against them, putting them out of the tournament. The solution could even go further than that by replaying controversial incidents such as the refereeing decisions mentioned above, which could end up costing the clubs involved millions of pounds due to failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League or missing out on higher Premier League TV payments as the result of a bad decision (It is estimated that Chelsea’s wrongly-awarded goal could cost Tottenham £15 million if they fail to qualify for the Champions League as a result).

 

As I have suggested before, a fairer system might be to allow team captains to challenge three decisions during a match, which will be replayed there and then if the game is being filmed. That way, diving and unjust penalties would also be caught, which can have just as much of an impact on a match as a wrongly-awarded goal. It would also stop ugly incidents marring fantastic games of football, which is what UEFA Champions League semi-finals should be remembered for being.

 

However, FIFA cannot sell TV replays. It can sell goal line technology, as there are a plethora of companies ready to offer their technology to solve perceived injustices in football. Because of the millions of pounds at stake, modern football deserves a fairer solution.

 

Andy Brown


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