Video Technology Needed Not Just For Whether Over The Line
We have all been in the pub after the game at one point or another and found ourselves bemoaning dropped points or a cup exit at the hands of a referee’s decision.
We have all watched TV coverage over the course of the weekend and seen pundits, managers and players railing against these decisions in games not involving Newcastle. A clear cut or stonewall penalty to use the term those working in and around the game like to use (I have no idea either), Red cards that should have been but weren’t – leaving a side with a full complement when they should have been disadvantaged (Chelsea at home last season), offside goals that weren’t, offside goals that were and the big one: ball over the line and no goal incidents. These being the main driving force behind bringing technology into the game.
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The Premier league is due to introduce goal line technology from next season to address the issue and surely more will follow in other areas in the coming seasons, now that the barrier has been breached and the anti-technology lobby bypassed or won over.
How many games is that though? How many games will technology and the decisions it will be focused on, ensure the fair outcome of? Yes we can all remember these poor calls going against and turning a game but how often do those really big calls made in error really happen? A handful of times a season, once a season, or once every few years?
In short, not that often but they are heavily covered, discussed and cause severe annoyance when officials do make these errors. These decisions can override an entire game and it’s very easy for managers and players and us the supporters to point to them when they occur, to cover up what at times was also a poor performance.
But for me it is not these decisions on which seasons are made, or games are generally won and lost. As I have said they are, despite the attention and general outrage, rare occurrences and rarer still ones that totally turn the game.
Of bigger importance are the constant small decisions during a game, games where those 50/50 challenges where no player is any guiltier than the other, constantly results in a free kick in favour of the same side. Free-kicks given for innocuous challenges that are rightly free kicks but will consistently go in favour of one team seem but go un-penalised when perpetrated by that same sides players, goal kicks which should have been corners ,tussling in the area tolerated from one side but free kicks given against the other.
All these little decisions happen on a regular basis throughout a game and very often there is not, as should be expected, an equal spilt of decisions. These decisions are seemingly even more pronounced when playing teams from the upper echelons of the football establishment; there are also sides that positively adopt the tactic to employ the man in the middle as part of their game plan. Duping him to win as many free kicks all over the park as possible to regain possession and break up play.
Stoke are experts and Allardyce’s Bolton were also fine proponents of the method. Thus winning points by what in my view are underhanded tactics which could easily be stamped out by paying greater attention to the smaller decisions. These decisions deny one side possession and consistently give it to other granting them a major advantage over the course of a game.
Then there are incidents like Thursday night, where for me, the referee had a profound effect on the closing minutes by simply spending almost a minute of added time fussing around the position of the wall. This allowed Benfica players a respite and time to organize, nullifying any advantage we had gained from winning the free-kick and taking away the momentum we had built.
The incident, not widely talked about or causing as much outcry as if the official had disallowed a legitimate goal or denied a clear penalty, affected the game in favour of one side none the less.
Then there are those occasions where the officials seem to have just decided that one team will be getting the rub of the green on decisions which grant them possession and the other will be penalised by losing it for the slightest infringement. A succession of free kicks given in the middle of the pitch against a player who has fairly won the ball or committed a minor infraction and none given the other way in the same situations passes by unnoticed or unmentioned in the media.
The incidents are simply not as big a discussion point as the big controversial decisions mentioned, which tend to happen in and around the 18 yard box. These warrant hours of discussion, slow motion replays and angry pub rants. These small decisions though influence the course and flow of the game in favour of one side or another and occur far more often. For me it is these decisions and this kind of officiating that causes a far greater loss of points and has a far greater impact over the course of a season.
I am not professing to have hit upon something everyone else has missed; I have heard the reaction at the match when these decisions do start to consistently go against. However, I do think they are quickly forgotten and rarely talked about after the final whistle has blown.
If the aim of bringing technology into the game is to ensure that the result is as much as humanly possible down to 22 players on the pitch and not the decisions of officials who should merely be overseeing the action, then I feel these little things need much wider discussion and scrutiny as is afforded to the headline grabbing poor decisions.
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