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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So who else are they going to give a whistle to?

In Saturday's Cup Final Chelsea's Florent Malouda let go a shot that hit the bar, bounced down over the line and then back into play. Neither the ref nor the other officials thought it was a goal and so they carried on. TV replays showed that it was a goal but thankfully it wasn't controversial. Chelsea held on to their lead and won the cup. This gave rise to the usual arguments about "modern technology". (Football people's belief in "modern technology" is about as well-grounded as 17th century villagers' belief in witchcraft.)

It works in cricket and rugby, they say. Well, in those sports it works far from perfectly and both games have one characteristic that football doesn't. When a decision needs to be made in cricket and rugby the ball is dead. In the Malouda case play was continuous and the only person who can stop play is the ref, who saw nothing wrong with it. So who would stop the FA Cup Final so that a TV replay could be consulted? Guus Hiddink? Roman Abramovich? One of the players? A representative of a Chinese gambling syndicate?

The technology may well work but somebody has to provide the interval for it to do that work. If you allow anyone other than the ref to be the arbiter of all decisions about how play is conducted you're letting in all manner of madness.


  1. I'm absolutely with you on this one. The beauty of football over other sports is its fluidity. We already have enough crying, diving and whinging slowing down the game when the ball gets knocked out in the spirit of fair play.

    One possible solution, I've always thought, would be to try the model used in Gaelic games here in Ireland, where two umpires stand behind the posts, one at each side of the goal. They're usually consulted on anything (including off the ball incidents) that goes on in and around the goals. It might stop all that jersey pulling at corners too if an umpire gave a penalty or two.

  2. How about giving each manager three challenges per match? If the ref rules against you after viewing the video, you've "spent" one of your challenges. If you keep winning them, you don't lose any and can keep challenging as often as you like, while the ref hates your guts for showing him up repeatedly.

    As for the mechanics, it could be as simple as a buzzer connection between the benches and the fourth official.

    No? Okay, then, well how about....

  3. Archie,
    I don't see how the challenges rule would work because football is one of those games where one side always has an interest in stopping the game while the other always has an interest in continuing. Let's say it's two minutes from the end of a relegation decider. Do you envisage *any* circumstances where one team wouldn't want to hold up the action if it meant that they could re-group?

  4. Er...yes, well, there is that.

    Okay, how about this. Managers have three "cards", to be used for either challenges or substitutions. So, if you've already used up two of your cards by putting two subs on in a cup tie that could go to extra time, you wouldn't risk using your last "card" as a challenge, in case a player got injured. You'd only challenge things that would give you a clear advantage, such as a penalty shout where you were 100% sure of being proved in the right by the video.

    No? Okay, then, well how about....

  5. but do football fans want prescision in decisions they always go both ways, do we want to lose the world cup over a video camera, obversely we won't say much if it went the other way would we.

  6. Anonymous10:53 pm

    Do you need to stop the game?

    I'm sure a chip could be put in the actual football that would only be triggered if ball entered the area behind the goal line. This would be transmitted to the referees earpiece with no extra stoppage needed.

    Okay,how about........

  7. Anonymous11:25 pm

    It just won't work, regardless of problems with stopping the play.

    How many times over the past few years has the video ref in the Six Nations got it wrong? They're watching the same replays as us and the commentators, it's clear to us whether it's a try or not, but they still screw up.


  8. 'Both games have one characteristic football doesn't...'

    Er, yeah, they accept the decision of the officials immediately and without argument, and if they don't, severe sanction follows. Why doesn't football try that first?

  9. Technology should only be considered for phantom goal issues like this one. If the ball and the goallines are microchipped and a beep goes off in the ref's earpiece, that should be enough. Otherwise, leave well alone.

  10. They do that in tennis don't they? Have some sort of cameras/sensors that go beep! if a ball hits the line.

  11. I suppose the only way it could possibly work would be if the referee only stopped the game if he was genuinely unsure about a decision. The ref on saturday must have suspected that the ball had at least possibly crossed the line, so he could have stopped the game in such circumstances and checked it. It could work for penalty and offside claims, too. But the problem would still arise that refs would make mistakes, by not even thinking that an issue was questionable. And it would take away a certain amount of counter-attacking potential for the defending team.

    The other thing is that introducing technology takes the top level of the game further away from the average Joe playing it. The beauty of football lies in its simplicity, and the relative lack of equipment required. If microchipped balls and video technlogy are introduced then it becomes a vastly different game to the one that kids play every day. At the moment the only difference is that the professionals cheat more.

  12. Re Kevin's comment about Gaelic games: UEFA have announced that they're going to try out a new system in next season's Europa Cup (ie what used to be the UEFA Cup), with an extra official stationed behind each goal.

    The idea is that they'll be perfectly placed to rule on incidents like the Malouda 'goal', and also on dubious challenges in and around the penalty area - which they should be well placed to see, as they won't be viewing them from behind, as the referee often is. They'll be in constant contact with the ref via microphones and headsets, so no need to stop play either.

    It sounds like it could be a useful idea. Or it might just give the crowd two extra officials to hurl abuse at...

  13. But even with the Malouda 'incident' we had to have a few looks, and as a Chelsea supporter, I still wouldn't want to put my shirt on the whole of that ball having crossed the whole of the line.
    Even if we had ten Gaelic line judges last Saturday, could they have indicated with certainty that it was, without question, a goal?
    I doubt it.
    The only possible solution is the chip technology (as per tennis), but we would then have to accept that the professional game is not the same as played on village green pitches. However, it already is a different game.

  14. "The Official Behind The Goal's a wanker!" doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it?

  15. Obviously I'm straying way beyond my competence here but surely the tennis technology is OK when it comes to measuring where the service ball falls in one small area of the court (an area which is not occupied by another player at the time) but it couldn't begin to decipher the average goal line melee.