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Wembley Stadium. EFE (file photo)
Let's embrace the technology
A look at LaLiga

Let's embrace the technology

Surely the spectacle can only be enhanced by the referee explaining their decision to the masses rather than them guessing what decision has been made

Rob Palmer, ESPN commentator

Malaga

Friday, 7 June 2024, 13:21

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It's time the paying punter is allowed into the mystical world of VAR and trusted to see ALL the replays afforded to the television audience.

This is my conclusion after a rare venture from the privileged position of the commentator's gantry to take in the matchday experience as a wide-eyed fan.

I couldn't turn down the opportunity to accompany my son to the Champions League final when a last-minute ticket for a wheelchair user fell his way. He certainly needed an assistant when he headed to Istanbul last year to watch his beloved Manchester City. Transportation was dreadful and the road to the stadium was rocky - literally for a 12,000-euro electric chair.

We joined the Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund fans for their big day in London and I'm delighted to report that Wembley Way was super smooth and the whole organisation was magnificent. The Spanish supporters mixed with the colourful crew from Dortmund to create a carnival atmosphere. Despite a few inaccurate social media posts, the "Road to Wembley" was a joy to behold as fans from all over the world made it to the mecca of football. Thankfully, there wasn't a repeat of the idiots who tried to gatecrash the European Championship final three years ago.

The food was quite decent - even the beer wasn't too pricey by London standards, though there was only one brand available. The Real supporters sang their hearts out and the Yellow Wall was rebuilt by human bricks.

The matchday experience has improved immensely over the years; in fact, it has come on in leaps and bounds in just 12 months and UEFA deserve full credit for learning from the nightmare experiences of the French and Turkish hosting of the final.

The one area that needs urgent attention is keeping fans in the loop with everything that's going on. We need to take a leaf out of the book of the NFL and rugby league. What impressed me so much when I experienced my one game in Tennessee and intermittent Hull FC attendances over the years was the referee explaining their decisions, with a big screen showing them a replay of the incident.

Last week at Wembley, we didn't even see replays of tackles or the disallowed goal on the state-of-the-art stadia screens. It took me back to the 2006 World Cup Final when everyone in the stadium was messaging home to see why Zinedine Zidane had been sent-off. Nearly two decades on, football has advanced in many areas - but not for in-stadium supporters.

In fact, Real Madrid were ticked off for showing a replay of the Bayern goal disallowed after a VAR review in the semi-final at the Bernabéu. They should have been applauded, rather than admonished! People are paying hundreds of euros, pounds, and dollars to attend matches, yet they are kept in the dark over what's happening whereas television viewers get the full picture.

We're told that authorities are worried about fan reaction. This was the same excuse when managers weren't allowed a feed of the match; now they are straight onto their touchline laptops to assess the action and there's a far greater acceptance of decisions once they've seen the replays.

Professional referees I know tell me that they would welcome the chance to explain decisions and going forward they are aided by goal-line technology and the semi-automated offside technology.

Fans can't kick off at a video showing that a ball has or hasn't crossed a line or make it personal with a machine that determines offside. Surely the spectacle can only be enhanced by the referee explaining their decision to the masses rather than guessing what decision has been made?

It's time to fully embrace technology!

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