Is it time for a Video Referee?

Long has been the discussion about the need for future technology use in football; and after every bad decision, or every 50/50 call, there are constant cries for the introduction of video referees into the game. Compared to other popular sports, Football has always been behind the times in its use of technology, and now that these measures have been successfully integrated into Cricket, Rugby, and Tennis, and pressure is on for Football to join the club.

It wasn’t long ago we saw the introduction of goal-line technology into the game, and it’s fairly unanimously agreed that it’s been a positive step. So, what is the next step for Football? What other technologies could be harnessed to improve the game?

Most believe there is room for a video referee in the game. It’s worked for Rugby; as the video referee can investigate tries and fouls, and can provide an answer to the on-pitch referee within 1-2 minutes. Say a video referee was introduced into the game, what would the scope of the role be? Would they look at fouls? Offsides? Penalty decisions? Red and yellow cards? In addition, when would the referee be called upon, and whom by? Would the referee ask for help on a decision? Would each team be able to appeal decisions like is currently utilised in the NFL? One thing is for sure, implementing video technology into Football will be more complicated than any other sport previously, and will need thorough consideration, and planning.

Personally, I don’t believe in the idea of a ‘video referee’ would work in Football. I believe that there are more areas of the game where technology could be introduced, but I don’t like the concept of an extra referee. If you look at the other sports which use these systems: Rugby, Cricket, Tennis; these are much simpler, clear cut sports, with clear cut decisions. In Tennis, it’s a case of where the ball hits the court, in Cricket it’s following the trajectory of a ball, and in Rugby, the main decision is whether the ball, has crossed the try line.

Same with current goal-line technology in Football, it’s a clear-cut decision. Did the ball cross the goal-line? But most other decisions in Football are complex, and often leave people with differing opinions, which often leads to controversy. Even after pundits, fans, and former referees get to see dozens of replays on certain decisions, they are sometimes still unable to come to a unanimous decision. How would a video referee change this?

As I previously mentioned, I do believe there are some areas where technology can be embraced, to help with more clear-cut verdicts. One example are offside calls, where it’s a simple decision; is the attacker past the last defender? This could easily be queried and decided within less than a minute, and it would not result in any loss of flow to the game. Video technology could also definitely be employed to resolve handball decisions, especially where they may have led to a goal, or another major decision. Once again, the question is simple; did it strike the players hands? This could be queried, resolved, and the game restarted within 90 seconds.

Other decisions will always lead to differing opinions, and contrasting decisions. What one video referee may judge to be a penalty, another will not; so, the technology isn’t particularly adding anything. Yes, it would be able to reverse blunders, and absolute clangers; but there will always be decisions that cannot simply be resolved. The FA and other organisations should instead be focusing on the refereeing system, and trying to find ways to improve their training, as arguably there are more refereeing blunders than ever before.

I’ve said many-a-time that the refereeing standards in this country are falling, and although officials in other countries tend to be harsher with decisions, their consistency is far higher. Though video technology can play a bigger part in the game, I do not believe it is the long-term answer to the current problems, and there is only a small scope for its introduction. It’s time for Football to find a different answer to the same old questions.


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