Do refs really need help? Why video technology should not be introduced

The weekend’s action brought up more talking points, more referee blunders, and more cries for video technology to support referees. There were two penalties, one of which had an offside in the build up, and a red card at the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal’s clash with Burnley, while Tottenham Hotspurs’ late equaliser at Manchester City was preceded one minute earlier by Kyle Walker pushing Raheem Sterling in the box for what looked like a stonewall penalty. With video technology already tested in France’s match against Italy in the autumn of 2016, the ever-increasing inconsistency of Premier League referees over the past few seasons has caused for many to want the trials to become more permanent additions to the beautiful game, but for me, the potential new introduction will do little to take away the controversy from the game, and make the excitement that we share in watching football matches more bog-standard.

The technological advances of the 21st century have already had an effect on football. Goal line technology made its debut a few seasons ago with huge success. That was an important step towards referees making fair calls during the matches as goals change games and if the ball has crossed the line then it should certainly be given. Video technology, however, creates more complications and takes this particular sport away from tradition. Football has always been a game about human decisions and video technology will turn the game more robotic and structured. Players make mistakes all the time on the field, so why should the referees be exempt from this? A human decision is a human decision; if the referee believes a tackle is dangerous foul play, then a video replay definitely won’t change his mind. In addition, if we introduce video technology then there’s no need for a referee anymore, as players will know that the video technology could overrule him at any opportunity, so the ‘peacekeeper”s influence on the field will therefore become useless.

Video technology will also influence the game by slowing it down, which will overshadow its intended influence on making the game fairer. This new technology exists in other sports but does take its toll on their proceedings. The most common use of this particular technology in sport is in rugby, where the referee can settle any doubt in his mind when a try has been scored. However, video technology has been deemed as acceptable in these circumstances as, in rugby, the clock is stopped when a referee is making this type of call. This is mainly because the video referees sitting in the stands may need a few camera angles, and therefore a good five minutes occasionally, in order to make the correct judgement. Do we really have time for that in football? To stop the game for five minutes for a decision which might not even be made? Technology is also used in cricket and tennis, but, again, it’s acceptable there because there are no real time constraints on those sports. Tennis and cricket matches can last for hours or days longer than they should do, but football is simply 90 minutes long. If the referees in the Premier League need help, then instead of slowing the game down, just simply add more referees on the touchline, like they do in Europe. We see fewer incidences of bad refereeing in the other European leagues and international football because they have a referee on the touchline behind the goal, meaning the officials have a better view of contentious decisions in the penalty area and also more sets of eyes looking at the entire pitch. This is yet another example why video technology is simply not necessary.

Furthermore, how will video technology work, and is it guaranteed to prevent the controversy that already exists in the game? How long before a goal does a controversial decision have to be before the ball hits the back of the net? Let’s say there’s a debate where the ball went out of play a full minute before a goal is scored. Will the referee have the right to check that decision, or will it have to be a contentious call which directly affects a goal? Or will it work in the same way technology functions in tennis, where teams get a set number of challenges? And if so, how many challenges could they make, and will it be enough to make sure the game is conducted fairly by the referee? If a team wastes all their challenges then the referee may be entitled to believe that a team, or a certain player, should not be trusted when protesting for penalties or offside calls. For me, there are too many complications with regards to bringing in video technology, as it could be introduced in so many different forms, unlike goal line technology which was easy to make and simple to implement on the game. In my opinion, the Premier League isn’t broken; so do not try to fix it. It’s still the most fascinating league to watch in the world, full of drama and suspense and shocks around the corner, and video technology will go quite a long way to changing that.

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