Time to embrace change

Replays confirmed what everyone knew; the ball crossed the line.
Replays confirmed what everyone knew; the ball crossed the line. / SUR
  • opinion

  • After the Valencia-Barcelona game, it's time for La Liga's money men to stop their bickering and bring in technology

The workmen need new tools. No longer is a whistle, watch and a flag enough to officiate at a multi-million pounds football event!

The quote from the normally diplomatic Andrés Iniesta summed it all up: “Everybody saw it, except those who actually had to see it.”

He was of course talking about the Lionel Messi goal that wasn't noticed by the officials in the Valencia-Barcelona game, even though it was seen by 47,775 fans inside the stadium and the millions of us watching around the world. Blame was immediately thrust upon the referee and his nearest assistant - wrongly in my opinion.

It didn't come down to the referee whose view wasn't clear enough to confidently confirm the ball had crossed the line nor his assistant who was concentrating his stare on the two Barça players who would have been flagged offside if the goalkeeper had spilled it forwards instead of backwards. The culpability lies with the quarrelling men in suits in Spain's footballing corridors of power.

While the rest of Europe's top football leagues have installed goalline technology, La Liga lags behind as the power-brokers squabble over exactly which brand to invest in.

Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga assures us: “We are hopeful VAR technology will be able to solve these situations next season.” This is a holding statement as he goes back to the negotiating table with Juan Luis Larrera, who has replaced his nemesis Ángel María Villar.

Even the derided UEFA system of placing an extra official behind the goals would be saving the Spanish FA the embarrassment of having to ignore a goal from arguably the world's greatest footballer. The ridiculously-named 'additional assistant referees' are cruelly nicknamed 'tourists' by the proper referees as they get to see all the top European sites by contributing very little. For once they could have earned their hotel room.

What I don't like about the Tebas' statement is the word 'hopeful'. This from a league that hasn't decided on the days games will be played beyond Christmas!

Surely they could just ring their counterparts at the Premier League or Bundesliga and say “Can you get us a deal on your system?” or ask UEFA to recommend their preferred technology?

Just don't blame the referees. Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva may have 'villan' is his name but trying to keep up with the modern game does require extra help. He was fine with the straightforward decisions like insisting Ezequiel Garay went off because his sock was laddered. He actually deserves praise for not showing Rodrigo a yellow card for donning an orange wig, normally a bookable offence. He acknowledged that it was in honour of the recently-deceased Valencia president, and allowed it just this once.

The referees will eventually benefit in several ways. Obviously they can refer to technology when they are unsure of a decision. The other plus is that extra referees are being trained up to work the VAR system, so no longer do they have to retire when their legs can't keep up with Messi and Ronaldo.

The referees won't have to solely rely on their income from their regular jobs like baker, butcher or salesman. It is unerring how many are salesmen, now if they had a VAR system to flog at mates rates they could be millionaires by this time next year.