Search This Blog


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Television Match Officials are not going to make sport any better

Last night's sport underlines that it's no use relying on what commentators lump under the word "technology" to ensure the better adjudication of games. The Test series between England and the West Indies has been played under a referral system whereby batsmen and bowlers could ask for a certain number of decisions to be reviewed by an official watching TV pictures of the incident. Human nature and professional sport being what they are, by the time it came down to the last nail-biting hour they had used up all their "lives". At the same time the umpires in the middle had, like rugby union referees, been increasingly happy to abdicate their responsibility to make decisions on the spot to some bloke in the pavillion, at great cost to their own personal authority.

Meanwhile over in Turin Drogba's shot clearly crossed the line and was smuggled out by a Juventus goalkeeper whose embarrassment was evident to everyone apart from the referee and the linesman. Both of them were in a tearing hurry to resume the game and must have thanked the Almighty when Chelsea scored seconds later. Maybe there is a case for "goal line technology" but it's not as strong as the case for officials who are a bit stronger than those at Juventus. All the gismos in the world aren't going to make football any fairer or prove that beneath that pile of bodies a try has been scored. It's not science. It's sport. You do not ask sporting officials to establish the truth. You hire them to ensure something called "fair play", which is a different thing altogether.

And the reason that there are so many controversial incidents in football is because all footballers cheat instinctively. Managers have the gall to criticise a ref for unfairness and at the same time send out eleven players with direct instructions to deceive that same person. If professional football was run using a referral system it wouldn't be long before you would have lawyers on the bench, games were being held up as a matter of course and the man in the middle was happily letting somebody else be the arbiter. TV would love it, of course, but it wouldn't make the game any fairer.