The game has changed vastly in the last 10 years. Players now dive much more regularly and feign injury for tactical advantage, it’s not just Leeds anymore. The game has sped up vastly with more aggressive challenges. Injury is much more common because of this speed and aggression. The challenge that referees face with just being able to keep up is immense in the modern game.
With difference, comes adaption and after some of the terrible decisions we have seen, it is about time that the game is changed. FIFA are already considering introducing goal line technology to counter some embarrassing refereeing decisions. FIFA have made no comment on the needless penalties and red cards that are given out every week.
Over the years we have seem some truly shocking refereeing decisions. When Pedro Mendez was not given a goal by Mark Clattenberg when he lobbed Roy Carroll and the ball went a few feet over the line. When Graham Poll gave three yellow cards to Simunic in the 2006 World Cup Australia Vs Croatia game. The Henry ‘Hand of God’ II incident that denied Ireland a place in the 2010 World Cup. High profile games go hand in hand with poor refereeing decisions.
As a follower of a now Premiership team, I have seen my fair share of Premiership games over the past few years. Every so often you have to put your hands up after a comprehensive defeat and say “we just were not good enough”. However, I now seem to walk away from 60% of games, victory or otherwise, ruing the decisions taken by the referee that often determine the difference between three, one or no points. Referees have always made mistakes – the Maradona ‘Hand of God’ to name just one – but there comes a time when you have to say ‘enough is enough’. Referees are making more mistakes and it is wasting time to ask ‘why?’. We have to ask ‘what are we going to do about it?’.
Goal line technology is a must and should be introduced across the later stages of cup games, International and Premiership games at the very least. I understand FIFA’s reluctance because of the impossibility to introduce the technology throughout the country’s matches. You only really need it in high profile matches because the game is slower the lower you go down leagues, which means the referee is much more able to be in the right position to see the goal mouth. The best kind of goal line technology in my opinion is ‘Hawkeye’. It is used in Wimbledon and cricket too. The technology uses six cameras to create a 3D image and is designed to ascertain if a ball has gone over a line, perfect for football!
In terms of what we can do about the refereeing mistakes, there are a number of options. The problem stems from officials making rash decisions because they have not seen what has happened. Inspired by rugby union an idea is to have a fifth official that controls a roaming camera above the players suspended with wires. The referee would be in contact with this ‘video official’ through a headset and can consult him at any time. Trailed in the Euro2012 championship another possibility is using another official to stand behind the goal line and provide another set of eyes closer to penalty decisions and give advice to the referee. These changes are obtuse and heavily impact the game.
More subtly, but importantly, FIFA need to have better training for referees, certainly at a premiership level. Howard Webb is a fantastic referee that barely makes mistakes. Mark Clattenburg is not, and FIFA need to make the Premiership referees a force of consistency and observation. It is possible when we start to stop just saying ‘people make mistakes’.