Now it's time to fully embrace new technology and accept that the Video God is here to survey elite football
Friday, 6 October 2023, 17:32
Friday, 6 October 2023, 17:32
First things first, let's stop the talk of scrapping VAR and let's end constant abuse of football referees.
Without the whistler and flag-wavers at every level, we wouldn't have a game. They're human and make human errors - which is why the technology has been introduced to assist them at the very top level. Now, it is time to fully embrace that technology and accept that the Video God is here to survey elite football. It's not perfect - far from it - and the biggest issue is that its usage is fractured.
Here in Spain, they don't use goal line technology - which has been accepted elsewhere. Over in England, they haven't utilised the semi-automated offside system. Some claim that officiating is better in the Champions League and at the World Cup finals. There's a reason: they use every device available to them. I'd imagine a century ago that there were opponents to refs using whistles. "Why can't they just shout out their decisions? The game has gone," exclaimed the Victorians.
Originally I was an opponent of technology to officiate sport. Why should it be different in a stadium compared to a local park. I've accepted that they're now two completely different spheres.
The controversy in England is over a wrongly disallowed Liverpool goal against Spurs. It came down to human error; it came down to playing with technology instead of fully utilising what's available. If the 'semi-automated' system had been applied, there wouldn't be the same room for human error.
It's also time for better communication. The last people to be given a reason for a decision are the paying public inside the stadium - and often the players too. Most stadia have big screens - let's take a leaf from the NFL and have the official communicate the decision to the crowd, not just the TV audience.
I learned more about American football by listening to the decisions of the referee. There was a hush in the stadium during the explanation and the crowd listened to the reasoning, rather than just guessing at what witnessed.
As a commentator, I'm often privy to the discussions between the VAR team and the on-field officials - it's all very odd. It's like a bunch of teenage mates all trying to decide how to approach someone for the last dance at the disco - nervous, pally chat. They're a nervous wreck, afraid of saying the wrong thing. Countless times I've had a ref ask me post-game if they "got it right". My answer is always the same: "It had to be right because that's what you gave".
I can't write much about the ongoing case here in Spain, but the defence is that clubs do scouting reports on referees - of course, they do. Some refs are flattered when a superstar calls them by the first name; others see through it. Some will allow the first foul free; others like to impose themselves early by booking the first offender.
You'd expect professional footballers and managers to understand the laws of the game. The tell-tale sign they haven't got a clue when they call them "rules". Having sat my referees' course three times now (I know - I'm a glutton for punishment), I can confirm that you need a unique type of personality to officiate a football match.
They may be a little odd, but let us respect the referees, there wouldn't be a game without them. Maybe it should be like jury service and everyone should face the prospect of reffing a game?
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