The time of Resolutions is upon us. On top of convincing myself that I’ll drink less and exercise more I have made a new resolution. To blame officials less and blame Blatter more.
Last night I got a little bit annoyed at the manner in which Birmingham City equalised against Manchester United. The goal was, in all honesty no less than Birmingham deserved for their industry and United’s ineptitude most of the night. But in my opinion I deserve a date with Megan Fox, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get one, or should get one. The assist for Lee Bowyer’s late equaliser was a Birmingham City player’s arm. Hand-ball. That simple. The referee and the linesman failed to spot it – that happens, they’re human. It’s what happens next that concerns me.
Manchester United restarted the game and flailed hopelessly for a couple of minutes in pursuit of a winner. A winner to a game they had already won. Is that right? Really? In a sport that accounts for more money than most countries GDP, should we really be letting 3 men take an educated guess at what happened and hope that they are right?
This doesn’t happen in other sports. I’m going to give examples of two systems of officiating using modern methods.
Firstly, the Review System:
In tennis a player has the option to make 2 incorrect challenges per set to have an umpire’s decision reviewed using camera based technology. If the umpire’s were right, a challenge is lost. If the player was right, he retains his challenges.
What’s impressive is the amount of times that the umpires are right, considering the physics involved. But just one mistake can make a monumental difference. Momentum can change. It’s amazing how players can react to perceived injustice.
Cricket has a similar decision review system (this time 2 challenges per team per innings), utilising heat sensitive cameras, multiple motion sensors, specially calibrated cameras and even Snicko – which isn’t an own brand chocolate bar, it’s a device to detect sounds caused by contact with the ball. For the most part in both sports there is little to no descent from players towards officials, because strangely enough when players have complete confidence that the right decision has been reached, they don’t tend to argue about it, even if they did appeal it.
The second system I’ll loosely title At the Referee’s discretion:
In International Rugby matches you will sometimes see a load of men fall on top of each other just in front, or just behind a giant goal with posts that keep going up past the crossbar. That’s either a Try or it’s not. Sometimes the ref just knows. But sometimes the combined weight of an articulated lorry and the combined limbs of a spider convention all piled onto one tiny, silly shaped ball mean that it’s a little difficult for him to tell. This is when he draws a magic box in the air, letting everyone know that he’s going to the big man in the sky. No, not God! The Television Replay Official, who, to everyone in the ground wields roughly the same amount of power as God at that moment. It’s his job to review the replays, slow motion, super slow motion, different angles, maybe even with Benny Hill music on in the background if he deems it necessary, and from this footage decide if it is a Try or not. Sometimes even then, even after all that it’s impossible to tell. Now, I don’t know who came up with this idea, but in Rugby if they can’t tell, they don’t guess, they say that it’s inconclusive, and they have a scrum. Or a fight as it’s called on the streets. Funnily enough football has a rule ready made for such an occasion, it’s called a drop ball, but never mind.
So considering the fact that Football is the most well-funded, and proclaims itself to be the greatest, game on Earth, you have to ask the question, why in the name of one touch passing is Football so far behind when it comes to getting decisions right in games? It’s not because the referees are bad people – they really aren’t, they are decent people trying to do near impossible jobs knowing that the closest they’re likely to get to praise is nobody calling them rude words. It’s not because they are incompetent either, because for the most part they are very good at their jobs. There are exceptions. Of course. But I can honestly say that I have gotten decisions wrong at half speed from two different angles before seeing that actually, on review the referee was probably right and he’d already run 6k with no bloody Snood!
It’s not for any of those reasons. It’s because Sepp Blatter doesn’t like technology. Which is odd because when he leaves lavish award ceremonies, instead of getting on his penny farthing and riding straight to the docks to hop on the first paddle steamer back to Switzerland, he get’s in a bloody expensive car with heated seats and electric windows. What do you think heated those seats you gigantic tosspot?
Blatter’s main argument against having technology in football is that it takes too much time, that it interrupts the flow of the game. Well let me ask you this Sepp, how long did it take to calm down the Irish players who tried pointing out to the referee that Thiery Henry is also a world class basketball player? That this happened 23 years after Maradona did virtually the same thing to England is an absolute disgrace. Sports should learn from their mistakes and rectify their failings. That’s why you should have a governing body. Not to get rich and fat off the back of the fans; fans who you are still cheating every single time. Now people will say it’s just a game. But ask the publicans in Ireland who went out of business last year what effect a World Cup spot for Ireland would have had on their trade, and chances are some of them would still be in business. A World Cup place is worth Billions of pounds, or Euros in Ireland’s case, and yet it’s left to chance because the Big, Bad, Sepp says NO! Referee’s would love to have the ability to make the right decision each and every time, to be able to admit “I’m not sure here” and get some assistance from someone who 99% of the time will be able to get it right. I think fans could live with that. I really do.
The money the technology would cost you’d instantly make back by scrapping the Respect for referee’s campaign because you wouldn’t need it. The decisions would be respected. Managers wouldn’t be able to chastise and influence officials before and after games and peace would return to the Middle East. Ok maybe not the last bit, but right now all 3 things look equally likely.
So, next time your team puts the ball 3 yards over the line only to see it bounce out and no goal be awarded, next time one of your players get’s farcically sent off, next time the opposition simultaneously field 3 goalkeepers and you still don’t get a penalty, don’t blame the poor buggers in black, blame Blatter. Maybe even get a new chant going: “Sepp Blatter is a w*nker”