A VAR decision being reviewed during a 2022 Qatar World Cup match. / reuters

Too much technology

Refereeing decisions need to be communicated more clearly for the sake of fans and commentators

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

It's very 2022, when the video assistant referee (VAR) uses the semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) to decide whether the USA should be awarded a goal with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

Fans no longer aim their anger at the man or woman in the middle, but at a robot making a decision based on images from 12 tracking cameras and 29 data points.

If you don't like the new applied science, you won't like my suggestion that we need to delve even further into technology.

I'm having a break in the States while the World Cup is taking place and I've seen the future. As a novice at an NFL game, I was educated by the match officials explaining to the crowd just why a decision had been made. Replays on the giant screens also give a bigger picture - literally.

Fans - and often commentators - are left in the dark at football matches when there is a long delay for a goal or red card check. The paying punter is the last person to understand what on earth is happening on the centre stage.

If it was the NFL, the ref would say something like: "Goal check. Handball by Maradona, England restart with free kick."

Soccer fans aren't trusted to be informed on ruling inside the stadium apparently. I'm not saying that American football fans accept every decision, but they are given the full picture and explanation. One or two of the words used by the Tennessee Titans' fans when they disagreed with the ref were not fit for publication here.

Back in the day, I was against the introduction of technology as it created a gulf between the very leading levels and lower leagues. Only the major leagues and tournaments have the finance and capability to install the modern tech in stadia. Now I concede that it's here to stay, so we need to embrace, accept, and develop its usage even further.

We need to attach microphones to the referee and hear just how a decision was concluded with sound and a replay of the incident on a jumbo screen rather than the piddling scoreboards we have these days.

Football is now far more technical, becoming global and making huge strides. After this World Cup the appointment of a female official won't be newsworthy. Stéphanie Frappart is one of six women who are so good at their profession they've been invited to officiate at the world's greatest tournament.

In the States, there is a former referee on every World Cup broadcast. Costa del Sol resident Mark Clattenburg is a "rules analyst" on Fox Soccer. Anyone who knows the game will know that we follow 'laws of the game' and not rules so he should be known as 'The Lawman'.

In the end, I suppose referees still have the element of human error, despite the technological advances.