Following an announcement at the annual meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) recently, it appears that The Football Association are keen to test a video assistant referee system starting with next season's FA Cup.
Although goal-line technology has been introduced to top flight games and, on the whole, has been a huge success, officials now want to go one further and allow officials to look back at decisions; not just based on fact, but based on opinion too.
We've seen in cricket — once considered the most gentlemanly of games — how video replays have become part and parcel of today’s tests and one day internationals, often dictating the decisions players and captains make, as well as thrusting the umpires firmly into the spotlight on almost every occasion.
Eddie Howe sums up video technology perfectly
"I'm in favour of getting the right decisions but guaranteeing that is almost impossible"
— Mellor (@MellorFootball) March 10, 2017
But football is a very different beast with a set of unique circumstances unlike any other sport, and with that comes a whole new set of problems. So here are some of the more obvious reasons why a video review system simply couldn’t work in football.
Picture the scene: the assistant referee flags for what he or she thinks is a push in the box and believes a penalty should be given. This is a regular occurrence in today’s game, but would a group of officials huddled round a TV monitor and subsequently debating their final decision result in a definitive outcome? Let’s face it, more often than not penalties are a judgement call rather than a matter of fact, so the debate could rage for some time.
The time it would take
If the American model were to be followed then teams would have an allotted number of “challenges” each to use if they think they have been hard done by in the box. But you only have to watch a highly charged Premier League game to see the amount of penalty claims that are made, so even if each team were to be awarded five per match, that could be almost an extra hour of play even for the most tepid of games.
It would disrupt the flow of the game
One of the biggest factors when it came to the introduction of goal-line technology was Frank Lampard’s “phantom goal” against Germany in the 2010 World Cup. But anyone who remembers that incident will recall that as England were still remonstrating with the officials about the goal that never was, Germany went straight down the other end and nearly scored. What would happen if a team was able to review a penalty call just as their opponents were sticking the ball in at the other end doesn't bear thinking about.
— Mal Winkles – Football Nostalgia (@MemorabiliaMal) March 9, 2017
It’s taken years to research, design and produce the technology required just to show whether the ball has crossed the goal line. Can you imagine what would have to be involved in order to give a referee enough evidence to change their mind on a penalty claim in front of thousands of angry fans and millions of TV viewers?
It would threaten the referee’s integrity
One of the biggest opponents of any video referral system could well be the referees themselves. As in cricket, the ability to look over and over again at an official’s decision could lead to the men in the middle being publicly scrutinised for a call they make in good faith. As we all know, football is a game of opinions and the longer that remains the same, the better for all of us.