After more debatable decisions such as that witnessed at Old Trafford on Saturday, it’s obvious the major European leagues need to help referees more. Official Mike Jones was hung out to dry by his incompetent sidekick at the weekend. The man in the middle needs support in an era where technology can highlight their flaws in superb high definition. Various ideas have been put forward and tested, although there seems a discrepancy about which is the best route to follow.
Goal line technology is one concept that seems popular and the FA is looking at introducing it for next season. This seems unlikely though as any rule change would have to pass through FIFA who are seemingly against technology being involved in the beautiful game.
Tennis leads the way with the protocol for testing line-calling systems. After initial skepticism, the sport has taken to Hawk eye like a duck to water although contact sports such as football literally provide a completely different ball game. Quick fire decisions via goal line technology seem a win-win situation to be honest, although once technology of this sort gets a foot in the door it may overwhelm the game. For instance if goal line technology gets involved in football it will only be a matter of time before calls are made for video technology to be introduced.
This though would do the sport more harm than good. The game would be slowed down significantly, even if people claim the decision could be made in a split second.
A challenge per game system where managers get up to 3 opportunities per match to challenge a ref’s decision may be more suitable although would still carry flaws. Challenges would end up being used as a time wasting tactic late in a game when a team is holding out for a result. The advantage rule, quick free-kicks but more importantly the whole flow of a game would be affected.
Furthermore, what happens when a stonewall penalty is not given late in a game but a manager has used up all 3 challenges. Everyone looks stupid, not just the ref. For example, how would football have reacted in Paris when Thierry Henry handled the ball and France scored to go to the World Cup and Ireland couldn’t appeal against that because they had already used up their three appeals?
Thus, at this time I see the best option for Europe’s major leagues is to follow the lead of European competition by employing an extra couple of officials to stand behind each goal. They help make decisions in the area: whether that is controversial penalties or balls crossing the line or not. Pushing and pulling at set pieces and diving in the area becomes riskier business when players know there are extra eyes on them. Similar to reducing your speed when you see a policeman, it is likely that players will avoid pushing and pulling when they know someone is looking at the incident.
The extra official can help the referee by providing another opinion on big decisions. This ensures the human element remains whilst providing a platform for correct decisions to be made. Moreover, the game is not slowed down and the engaging talking points that refereeing decisions provide remains at the fulcrum of the sport.
Peirluigi Collina, widely regarded as the game’s best official until his retirement six years ago, stated there had not been one incorrect goal-line decision in games using additional assistants since experiments involving them began two years ago. Big call that to make. Although I lack the stats to question this claim so will go along with the big man.
With all that being said, due to the current climate where every decision a ref makes is seen as pivotal to the future of managers, players and clubs alike it is essential that refs are given extra firepower in their battle to make correct decisions. Right now there entering that firefight with a water pistol. Time to find themselves some heavy artillery.