Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The Video Refusers - update, Part 1

Les Murray has been a long-time opponent of the introduction of video technology in football, to assist the referees. His latest salvo on the World Game website refers to the recent dismissal of Chelsea's Frank Lampard in a crunch Premier League match, and a subsequent article from the British press. The recent sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari has added further spice to the whole situation, incidentally.

Although Les makes his case with typical vehement clarity, I feel that he and the British scribe are both missing the point. There is a case for video assistance for referees...but not in situations like the Lampard/Alonso incident.

In some 50-50 challenges, it is almost impossible to determine fault, let alone intention, even with the benefit of replays from several different angles. One man's "got the ball" is another man's "following through dangerously"...see, for instance, Danny Tiatto's challenge with Dylan McAllister which earned him his second yellow card on Friday evening. Tiatto did indeed get to the ball first, but was he able to avoid cannoning into the Mariners man subsequently? Very hard to judge, although justice was unquestionably served, given that Tiatto's earlier over-the-ball challenge on Andre Gumprecht was a clear red.

Since I've made my support for limited video assistance clear on several occasions on this blog, perhaps I should spell out the circumstances in which I think recourse to replays would be ideal. Les is right to assert that football's rhythm is less congenial to stoppages than that of tennis, cricket, American football and rugby, but there are some instances in which a stoppage would not affect the flow unduly.


1. Offside goals

N.B.: not, I repeat not, offside in general. Offside goals.

Linesmen are far too keen to raise their flag in the modern game, but were they to be made aware that if they keep their flag down and a goal is scored immediately the offside call can be checked, wouldn't it encourage them to let the play continue more often than not?

The delay in checking the decision would be minimal. Think of the current situation: a goal is scored from a possible offside position, and along with the usual delay while the euphoric attacking side strolls back past the half-way line, we have the spectacle of the defending side surrounding the referee and shouting the odds. It can often be a minute or so before play is re-started.

The decision as to what constitutes "part of the same passage of play" could be a tricky one, and would have to be left to the referee's discretion. But the point here is not to make the decision-making process perfect, only to make it better, without undue hindrance to the flow of the game.

2. Penalty shoot-outs

It astonishes me that people are still so blasé about the absurd injustices that occur in penalty shootouts as a matter of course. How often do we see the goalkeeper creeping off his line to give himself an unfair advantage? At least twice in every single shootout, I would suggest.

The delay in taking kicks is always considerable anyway. If the referee were able to refer any suspicious movement to judgement by replay, and produce a yellow card if the goalie is found guilty, surely this infuriatingly common offence would disappear overnight. A second yellow, and the lucky opposing team gets to simply whack the penalty into an empty net for the remainder of the shootout. A necessary deterrent, in my view, if the penalty shootout is to retain any credibility whatsoever.

And there's (a little) more. Tune in after all the excitement in Yokohama.

Nice piece of work, but the title made me cringe :)
say no to video replay in any sport!

Human error will always be a factor, embrrace it I say.
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