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Video referee technology in football: Boon or bane?

3rd April 2017 Print

Football is an ever-evolving sport. Once played for fun and considered a sport for the working class, it is now a multi-billion pound entertainment business. The essence of the sport is still the same, but over the past 30 or so years, football has become a global phenomenon and is hugely popular around the world.

One of football’s most popular aspects is discussions and debates. Every single match, whether that be in the Premier League, La Liga or the Chinese Super League, has its own talking points. Should the striker have taken a couple of seconds to decide before shooting? Should the defender have made the tackle sooner or should he have waited? Should the manager have played a 4-4-2 instead of a 4-2-3-1? Such topics are discussed by fans, both in the ‘real life’ and on the internet.

Refereeing decisions are also a major source of discussion and debates among pundits and fans alike. Sky Sports News HQ in the UK host a "Ref Watch" every Monday morning in which every major decision in the Premier League is minutely analysed. Similarly, BT Sport have a referee among their panellists during live matches to monitor key decisions.

Just like a striker failing to hit the target from three yards or the goalkeeper fumbling with an easy cross, referees make mistakes. On occasions, such mistakes from officials cost teams points and matches. Remember the Frank Lampard "ghost goal" against Germany at the 2010 World Cup? Bookmakers including Paddy Power had England as second favourites to win the competition, but that mistake saw the Three Lions get knocked out.

Goal-line technology has been introduced into the game, and to a large extent, it has been a success. And, unlike what many had predicted, it is quite easy to use and does not waste time at all. It seems that the football chiefs are finally warming up to the idea that video technology is good for the game.

There was a video assistant referee during the friendly international match between France and Spain last month. Spain won the encounter 2-0 at the Stade de France in Paris, thanks to goals from David Silva and Gerard Deulofeu.

The outcome could have been quite different had there been no video technology used during the game. Antoine Griezmann’s goal for Spain was correctly disallowed, while Deulofeu’s strike, who had initially been ruled out for offside, stood. It took the video referee just 40 seconds to overturn the initial decision regarding Deulofeu’s goal.

The use of video referee in the game between France and Spain was certainly a success, and there is a chance that technology could be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If it takes only 40 seconds for a referee on the sideline to watch an incident and make the call, what harm can video technology do?

The problem is that video technology could be used for more and more incidents, meaning that the game could become slower. It is all good if the video referee helps the officials on the ground with an offside call or a penalty decision, but what about incidents in the middle of the pitch? What about free kicks? What about fouls committed inside the centre circle?

While use of video technology in the game must be encouraged as it clearly has its advantage, it must also be made sure that it does not disrupt the flow of a football match. Referees and assistant referees must be more competent and should not rely on help from their colleagues with a TV screen.

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