2012. We do not have hover cars yet, we do not have robots to perform our everyday tasks and we do not have a good way of assisting referees in football. Despite this being one of those years which features heavily in science fiction stories of old we are still living in a sporting past when compared to other sports around the world.
The regular season of the NFL has just come to an end, a sport which is stop-start by nature, perfect for using
video replays and extra officials. The American version of Football however has definitely got a number of things right, and after sitting up and Watching the New York Giants secure a place in the play-offs last weekend it got me thinking as to how the real game of Football could benefit from some of the ideas adopted by our across the pond friends who named their sport incorrectly.
I am sure there are many ways in which Football could adapt changes, however the chances of them being met with open arms is slim to none due to the archaic way in which we view the game throughout the upper hierarchy.
Video replays: Something which I think we could really use in Football, a few instances just this weekend highlight the need to do something. Firstly, this is not a bash at referees, we all like to have a moan at them and claim how we could do better, but the truth is the game is played at such a pace, referees would need 20 pairs of eyes to watch everything. I am certainly not suggesting we adopt a stop-start policy, that would kill the game, but we have seen such advances in technology which allow us to have replays just seconds after an incident.
My first exhibit was Joey Barton’s “headbutt” on Norwich’s Bradley Johnson. We had the images almost immediately, the two players squared up with heads together, there was absolutely no movement by Barton to suggest he had struck out, but yet Johnson staggered back like he had just got a forehead to the nose, it was in my eyes a disgraceful conning of the referee. Joey gets a red card, now is this because of his “reputation” off the pitch (yet only 4 red cards in his Premier League career..) or because the ref honestly bought the big pile of fakery that Johnson was selling? In this instance we had players surrounding the referee (this needs to stop) and pushing and shoving, yet we already knew what had happened, we had seen replays from every angle. If the 4th official or a dedicated video ref was on hand we could solve this play acting and conning instantly. The referee could tell all the players surrounding him to get lost, have a 2 second chat with the guy on the video and book Johnson for play acting. This whole process would take less time than the handbags that goes on after such an event.
The second point from the weekend was the tackle made by Frank Lampard, now, I am not out to get the man, he knew it was a bad challenge, he instantly got up and was very apologetic and it was a case of a very bad but accidental challenge. Judging by the challenges made this season where red cards have been produced, and the ruling passed down that should have been a red card no two ways about it. If the rules are right or wrong however this is another matter which we are not looking at. The referee could have taken Lamps to one side, chatted to him while the video ref watched the replay and using those fancy earpieces, told the ref the correct course of action.
The video replay would not be able to stop the game, it would be up to the referee to spot fouls still, however it would definitely clear up a number of things while the game is already stopped. As far as respecting the referee goes, why not do what a lot of other sports do and mic up the ref, any player caught being abusive to the ref would get an instant fine and maybe a booking or a match ban or something. This may sound extreme but it would only take a few games for players to realise that it is (or should be) the referee that controls the game. The crowding around the ref, waving imaginary cards and forcing the referee to retreat should be stopped as well, I can understand the passion in the game, but there is a line between passion and intimidation. Maybe in doing this we can make the game fairer and encourage more young people to turn to refereeing.