In my opinion referees have the toughest job in the world – they can’t win. They are heavily criticized by the managers, players, fans and of course the media. Events this week have resurrected various debates around the ideas of refereeing and technology in football. It looks now like FIFA is going to introduce some form of goal line technology at the 2014 World Cup and I fear that this may have a negative impact of the “beautiful game” that we all love.
People have been calling for technology for years but I am totally against the idea. Many suggest that we limit technology to the goal line but these things have a way of evolving. If we introduce technology for goal line then the next move will be to escalate this for penalty decisions and before we know it technology will be replacing referees. This would lead to many stoppages in the course of a 90 minute game. If technology is introduced then the flow of a game will be affected. The fear is that technology may slow the game down that it will become very stop start and fans may lose interest. I would compare this to the NFL and phases of play will become shorter and shorter which will hamper a team’s ability to create momentum.
Although this is an extreme example I firmly believe that we should be prepared for the worst. The idea of giving teams 3 appeals has also been put forward by some people. I also feel that this is a very bad idea. What is stopping a team with who are leading one nil with 5 minutes left in again using these appeals as a method of time wasting? Tennis is used an example of a sport where this appeal system has been successful – Again I do not think that this can be compared to soccer. In tennis a player must reach a certain score to win whereas in soccer the winners are the team with the most goals after a certain time period.
Also FIFA has recently introduced the respect campaign whereby they are calling on players’ managers and fans to respect the officials. The introduction of technology would undermine any decision made by a ref and there would be no confidence left in any decisions he/she makes. Technology will also be very expensive and probably only available at the top level. Granted there is a lot more at stake in the professional game, football is supposed to be universal. Presently football is the most popular sport in the world – one of the reasons for this is that a football is the only equipment that is needed. Technology would great a divide between professionals and amateurs whereby two sets of rules would apply.
The other issue which has arisen lately with regards refereeing is the “letter of the law”. Over the weekend we saw two very similar incidents with David Luiz and Gary Cahill receiving different colour cards for committing a professional foul and preventing a goal scoring opportunity. Who is to blame for this???
Managers such as Owen Coyle are blaming the referee for getting these decisions wrong but I think we must look at the bigger picture in these circumstances. Referees are being asked to game strictly to the letter of the law and so when Cahill took down Parker he was technically preventing a goal scoring opportunity. (Even though anyone who has ever played soccer knows that Cahill was harshly treated and we are all delighted to see his red card rescinded).
I would rest blame for issue like this on the governing bodies of world and domestic football. There are forcing referees to make these decisions and adhere to the letter of the law. Referees are not only receiving criticism from players and managers but now there are referees assessors are monitoring their performances. It is no wonder the number of referees is decreasing at all levels of the game. My suggestion would be to allow these refs use common sense while refereeing the game. If they make the most sensible decision rather than the politically correct decision then I believe we will have far less contentious issues.