In the last few weeks I have enjoyed some entertaining, fascinating and gripping feasts of football which have, unfortunately, been marred by a series of unfortunate events that have led me to question a few things and also reopen an age old debate.
‘Modern’ football seems to be entering an interesting phase where “X Factor” culture seems to dominate. No matter what magic happens during the main event, we often find ourselves drawn into a debate about the referee, in the same way the viewers of the X Factor’s attention is diverted from the acts to a semi-staged sub-plot involving two of the judges.
What is the reason for this? Are referees fed up of playing second fiddle to the superstars on the pitch? Has their job been made harder by the varying interpretations of rules such as handball or a ‘dangerous’ tackle? Or has the increased pressure, given what’s at stake these days, led to an array of contentious decisions? All of these questions seem to point to one answer – video technology.
But is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean, it works in rugby, cricket and tennis. Why can’t it be used in football? After all, it would end the seemingly never ending saga involving referees.
Personally, I’m not overly interested. I feel we have coped perfectly well for over 100 years without it. I don’t buy into a ‘challenge’ system as is sucessful in cricket or tennis. However, I do believe it should only be used for the matter of fact incident of whether the ball crossed the line as there is,unfortunately, too much at stake to get decisions like that wrong.
The problem I have is as follows – what gives us the right to use video technology to retrospectively ban a player? Over the past few weeks, we have seen Balotelli and Cabaye retrospectively banned for their part in alleged stamps or kicks. However, the same panel of ‘experts’ didn’t consider Lescott’s forearm smash or Crouch’s eye gauge punishable incidents.
I’m not here to make a point of the overseas players being punished and the English players being let off. The point I am making is that all of these incidents are, rightly or wrongly, subjective. It’s not advanced technology deciding whether Cabaye meant to kick out at the Brighton player, it’s the ‘expert’ watching the playback. We are forever hearing ex players fondly reminiscing of the time they got a good ‘kicking’ from the centre half – the same ex players who are condemning a hard tackle because it’s a borderline red.
FIFA seem determined not to let us rule on matter of fact incidents such as whether the ball crossed the line but let us get away with subjective, retrospective action against a player. Why has our game changed so much?