Saturday, November 21, 2009


Regarding Henry

Everyone is having their spray about the already notorious Thierry Henry incident. That his act was abominably unethical is undisputed; the more significant fallout from his brazen piece of gamesmanship is likely to be yet more discussion about the issue of video assistance for referees. To clear the ground first: the calls for a replay of the match are essentially unfounded. The precedents quoted in this article are, unfortunately, nothing of the sort:

The FAI had pointed out in its request that FIFA's decision to order a replay of the Asian Confederation World Cup playoff between Uzbekistan and Bahrain due to a "technical error" by the referee was a relevant precedent for a rematch.

It isn't, although superficially the cases are similar. In the controversial Asian playoff in 2005, an incompetent referee actually made a concrete misinterpretation of the rules, which did require a replay. In the present case, the refereeing was again incompetent, but not in terms of actual knowledge of the rules.

The restaged FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Sheffield United in 1998, played following a goal scored by Arsenal after United had kicked the ball out of play for the treatment of an injured player, had also been highlighted.

In that instance, Arsene Wenger had consented to a replay, after Nwankwo Kanu's unsporting refusal to throw the ball back to the opposition had resulted in a goal. Raymond Domenech clearly has no intention of doing any such thing.

And so to the broader question. Should the Irish have had recourse to a video replay?

Although on the whole I'm fully in favour of appropriate video assistance, it's hard to see how it could have been applied systematically in this case. If the referee has the discretion to call for a replay on his own initiative (as in cricket), there still exists the possibility that he will ignore complaints in serious cases; after all, don't defending sides cry murder after about half the goals that are scored in football?

If the Irish had been permitted to refer a set number of incidents in the game to a video replay (as in tennis), two issues arise. First, who is to make the decision about which incidents to refer? The captain is the obvious answer, but he might have been well behind the play. And if some players are then more vehement in their belief that they've been robbed than others...the difficulties are evident.

Secondly, would such referrals extend to fine, often slightly subjective judgements (aerial challenges, for instance) or just concrete cases like offside and did-it-cross-the-line? I've argued for the use of video technology in such definite cases before, and I think that cricket administrators have done the right thing in restricting video referral to run-outs and the like, rather than extending it into the murky area of LBW.

A final thought: those expressing indignant surprise at Henry's behaviour have short memories. Towards the end of the 2006 World Cup, and especially in the final against Italy, he managed to dive more often, and more successfully, than his compatriot Jacques Cousteau.

I'm not so fussed about the difficulty of how to apply video assistance, certainly less so than how France got through. I think it would be much easier to learn how to sort it out sufficiently once its put into use, and I think after this it's now worth trying. I hope something good comes from this.
Video refs suck.

They suck in cricket.

They suck in Rugby league.

They suck in Gridiron.

They suck in tennis.

Sport really needs to get over this fascination with technology and get on with the game.

Henry's attitude just reminds me of lower grade park cricket. If your team mate was umpiring and you got caught from a feint edge, you walked because placing the burdon on your team mate was unfair. If there was a black and white at the bowlers end, you let him make the decision cause that's his job.

Henry played to the whistle, and that's what we got taught to do as kids.
Retrospectively, we might not have gone anywhere in 2006 - with videos - cos of Cahill's challenge in our own box, so soon after he'd equalised against Japan. As clear a penalty as I've ever seen. Still, not sure what the answer is.
the answer is that referees are falible, will make mistakes, that that is part of the game.

the sooner we accept that and just move on, the better.
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