A lot has been said in the wake of the Berisha penalty which decided the A-League grand final. Commentators have argued for or against the use of video technology in football in Australia.
While I’d argue that the Berisha incident is one of those that would never be resolved by use of video, I still believe it is time for video technology in top-level football.
Video technology will not remove all doubt and debate. Whether a video referral agreed with the referee’s decision or overturned it, the case for the other side would go on, and in many minds the wrong decision would have been reached whatever that decision was.
However, I don’t believe this inability to reach a clear conclusion is a strong enough argument against video technology. It is just an example of where technology wouldn’t assist in getting the ‘right’ outcome in the minds of the vast majority. These cases will always exist. But just because we can’t get it right 100 percent of the time, shouldn’t we still be trying to get it right as often as we can?
What about incidents when the video clearly sees what has taken place, making the right decision clear to the vast majority. I say vast majority because there will always be extreme supporters. I’m sure some Argentineans still deny the Maradona ‘Hand of God’ despite his admittance of the act.
I would point anyone arguing against video technology to look no further than the recent Valencia versus Atletico Madrid match for a clear argument in its favour. In a heading contest, the attacker Ricard Costa (Valencia) and defender Thiago (Madrid) jumped for the ball which clearly appeared to strike a hand. Costa and other Valencia players appealed for a handball against Thiago but the referee, after initially appearing to point to the spot, chose (correctly) not to give a penalty.
There ensued an all-in push and shove as players from both sides descended on the referee to argue their case. Meanwhile, at home, the video replays clearly showed that the ball had struck Costa’s hand rather than Thiago.
The handball occurred at 76:02 in the match. As a result of the mass confrontation, Thiago received a needless red card when he was dismissed for a slap on a Valencia player which he dished out as he was pushed from behind. The red card occurred at 78:28 and more time was lost as Thiago left the field.
In total three minutes were lost, an ugly confrontation took place and a player, innocent of any wrongdoing in the initial heading challenge, was dismissed. All of this could have been avoided with a thirty-second ‘time-out’ video referral which would have settled the matter conclusively with none of the ugliness taking place.
There will always be cases of conjecture and disagreement, like the Berisha case, but surely the onus must rest of FIFA to help the referees get it right (or confirm they got it right) as often as possible and in the process remove unnecessary player disputes.
That is where video technology can help. It will ensure the right decision is reached 100 percent of the time in cases where the video can clearly identify play acting, a ball crossing the goal-line or a hand ball, most noticeably where a goal is, or could have been, a likely outcome.
Importantly, it will allow the referee to remove himself as the focus of any dispute as he seeks confirmation from a third party and players have no reason to challenge and harass the referee when the decision is being adjudicated from afar.