Johannesburg - Like many others, I watched a lot of football over the festive season and still can’t understand why, with all the technology available, more of it is not used to assist referees come to a correct, decisive conclusion on so-called controversial and questionable decisions.
It was to be used in this weekend’s FA Cup third-round game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace.
From hand ball to corner kicks. From penalty incidents to yellow and red card offences.
From deliberate cheating by players diving and seeking to gain an advantage for their team, to one of the most contentious issues of all – offside.
Many people may not be aware that, at Premier League level, and even in some lower division games in many countries, there is a camera on each person on the field of play.
Yes, all 22 players are individually “screened”, as are the match officials.
So here’s the obvious and very simple question: Why not use those cameras to find out what the correct decision is? The referee can only do his best in terms of the powers granted to him.
Law 5 of the Laws of the Game deals with the powers and duties of the referee.
It states: “Decisions of the referee will be made to the best of the referee’s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’, and will be based on the opinion of the referee, who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game".
It goes on to say: “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.
"The decisions of the referee, and all other match officials, must be respected".
That being said, it’s clearly not happening.
Players are not respecting the decisions of the match officials.
Managers and coaches are not respecting them.
Mob rule mentality
Spectators are, in some way, allowed to disagree and voice their opinions, as many would argue it’s their prerogative that comes with their admission fee to the ground.
A clear case where the video assistant referee (VAR) would have helped enormously was the game between Bournemouth and West Ham United in the English Premier League on December 26.
Two issues of controversy surrounded this goal.
Firstly, the assistant referee raised his flag to indicate offside after a Bournemouth player put the ball in the net. Even though the ref and his assistant are wired up, referee Bobby Madley found it necessary to come across to his assistant to confer.
This prompted a mob rule mentality and players from both teams surrounded the ref, each with their own “agenda”.
The two issues were offside and whether the player used his arm to guide the ball into the net, which, at first glance, appeared to be the case.
This issue could not be determined, even with slow motion replays from several different angles, so VAR would not have solved this problem.
The second issue, and the one the assistant raised his flag for, was detectible with the use of slow mo.
Goal should stand
However, since the match officials are not allowed to use this mechanism, the goal was given and the game ended 3-3.
The law on offside (Law 11) states: “A player is in an offside position if any part of his head, body, or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line), and any part of the head, body, or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent".
In this instance, the player’s foot was shown to be nearer the goal than the second last opponent. Therefore, the goal should have been ruled offside.
In fairness to the match officials, they did their best with the equipment at their disposal.
The assistant referee was correct, but the referee has the final say and ruled that the goal should stand.
The real problem might come at the end of the season, when one of these teams is looking for vital points to survive in the Premier League and may revert back to this particular game as one that was vital to their survival.
Fifa is slow to change, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary for VAR to be introduced full-time.
Some will argue that the game will be slowed down.
Well, tell that to West Ham United or Bournemouth at the end of the season after they get relegated because of one point less than that required to stay in top-flight football.
. Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol