The latest argument for video technology in football

Philip Coates Roar Guru

By Philip Coates, Philip Coates is a Roar Guru

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23 Have your say

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • April 28th 2012 @ 2:11am
      Johnno said | April 28th 2012 @ 2:11am | ! Report

      Hand of God Maradona
      Frank Lampard goal line error
      Henry Handball
      Say no more
      Video techonlogy is a must enough said

    • April 28th 2012 @ 6:48am
      nordster said | April 28th 2012 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      dunno about ‘enough said’ there Johnno 🙂 … its a more complex thing for football to go this way, thats for sure! For starters, the rules of the game are largely common across all levels. Its a real strength for our sport that shouldn’t be left out of the debate.

      the only way i’d support video evidence for refs in football, is if its integrated into the existing officiating. It’d need to be done in a way that won’t affect the game so much. So ‘challenges’ or pausing the match to review video, no way.

      One soft option would be for the fourth official to have access to a screen on the sideline. Then if something really obvious happens it could be turned around and changed. So its effectively another set of enhanced (by TV) eyes watching the game, there as an option. Could be trialled at least to see if how it would be utilised in practice. I wonder if it already has/is sometimes…

      There are broader issues though. What of the quality of the TV coverage? How many cameras constitutes a minimum amount of cover? Do the refs supervise the selection of pictures for replay? Or do they have independent access to all pictures?

      There’d be a massive difference between the amount of variables an EPL level television production setup could pick up versus the A-League or especially smaller leagues again with little (or no) TV coverage. Remember not even all top-flight leagues have good coverage at every game.

      And this goes back to the central problem i have with it. The common rules being tampered with based on what level is being played.

      Introducing it would change football. Whether its just the ethos or the game as well, who knows. It would be one grand experiment, unnecessary perhaps. How many really 100pc obvious decisions are going to change as a result of having it?

      For all the mud thrown at FIFA, they are being rightfully cautious on this one.

      • April 30th 2012 @ 11:10am
        PeterK said | April 30th 2012 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        Some excellent points IMO, Nordster, two in particular.

        For games with TV coverage (and a fourth official), the four refs are miked up to each other, and the fourth official could quickly let the ref in the middle know if there’s a clearer answer from a replay — and if the fourth official can’t do that quickly, then the ref’s decision stands.

        I also very much like your point about common rules at all levels of the game. It’s not totally achievable even now of course, as many low-level games don’t even have two ARs (linesmen), let alone extra-sharp and wise men (and ladies) in the middle, but I guess your idea of the fourth official being able to tell the ref what the video replays are saying (without the public being very aware of it, if at all) is a good one. (And as you say, it might even be happening already!)

    • Roar Guru

      April 28th 2012 @ 10:48am
      Philip Coates said | April 28th 2012 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      Nordster, the common rules are already tampered with depending on the level you play. Europa matches have goal line officials that aren’t used in other games. Some leagues use mulltiple balls around the ground to keep the game flowing while others don’t. Top flight games have fourth officials not found in the vast majority of matches played on a weekend.

      How many obvious decisons are going to change … johnno mentioned three world cup match affecting decisions straight off the top

      • April 29th 2012 @ 1:05pm
        Bondy said | April 29th 2012 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

        I havent noticed a goal line assitant make a call in the Champs Lge, pesonally I think they hide in that position and wont make judgement calls .

      • April 30th 2012 @ 7:26am
        nordster said | April 30th 2012 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        just three bigguns? In how many years? The % of really obvious calls that could be overturned would be minor. I suggest proponents of this actually go back and watch games to see how and when it could be applied. I think it would be less than u might think.

        To add it for a world cup perhaps, only a tournament by tournament basis imo. I just doubt that across the whole sport its worth adding.

        Depending on how its implemented, adding video review could also have more of an effect on ‘the game’ than an extra couple of assistant refs.

    • Roar Guru

      April 29th 2012 @ 11:47am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | April 29th 2012 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      All the talk for the pas week has been to ridicule football – particularly, ridicule the HAL – for the controversial penalty decision.

      Yet, blatant inconsistent & wrong decisions in other sports are rarely scrutinised with such vigour.

      I just watched Offsiders (ABC1) and saw footage of from AFL last night, where St Kilda player (Milne) kicks the ball – along the ground!! – and it goes wide of the goal for a point score only.

      The AFL goal umpire signalled a goal! How can such a rubbish decision occur? How can a match official make such an error or FACT?

      The AFL goal umpire is standing there – perhaps, 1m away from the action. The AFL goal umpire has 1 job to do all day – watch to see if the ball goes through the big poles or the big & little pole.

      A few days ago, an AFL coach was unhappy with the decisions made by the video umpire.

      • April 29th 2012 @ 7:14pm
        Philipcoates said | April 29th 2012 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

        If i understand the case you are refering too, the AFL coatch was unhappy because he didn’t understand the operation of the rulel – the afl rule states that if the video is inconclusive the umpires first call stands and in the collingwood case the goal umpire didnt make it clear on tv what his first decision was. as it happened the ump thought it was a point, the video was inconclusive, so it was given as a point. The rule was applied correctly. There will always be teething problems and the AFL is dealing with those – the biggest problem is too many video referrals.

        Anyone who thinks video will eliminate all 50/50 decisions is kidding themselves but it would eliminate the cases of the Lampard ‘non-goal’, the Henry handball against Ireland, the incident I refer to above, the Danny Vukovic send off in the a league final a few years back, and many other similar cases where the referee simply gets it wrong and the video can conclusively correct the error.

    • April 29th 2012 @ 1:01pm
      Bondy said | April 29th 2012 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

      I understand where your coming form Phil . There has to be some form of clear mandate in relation to video technoligy,can a Manager use it to waste time in the closing sector of the game the last 5-6 minutes in a game anything in the 18 yard box “challenge it doesnt matter what just challenge ” ! . I heard Wenger say he wanted one or two challenge calls per game ,what if he challenges two in the first thirty minutes and someting happens late in the game he’s used hi’s chances up.or what if he looses a game with a challenge spare or not used forgotten about . Theres some permiatations there .

      Video Ref only no managers just the fourth official going over things is suffice for me, rational read Phil .

      • April 30th 2012 @ 11:14am
        PeterK said | April 30th 2012 @ 11:14am | ! Report

        Agree, Bondy. No challenges!

    • April 29th 2012 @ 1:23pm
      neos osmos said | April 29th 2012 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

      • Roar Guru

        April 29th 2012 @ 1:42pm
        Fussball ist unser leben said | April 29th 2012 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

        Fantastic discussion piece – 100% agree with everything Ray wrote.

        • April 29th 2012 @ 7:34pm
          Philipcoates said | April 29th 2012 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

          Roy says “Technology only shifts the locus of decision-making, it does not improve it.” How blatantly wrong this statement is. No one would deny that Henry handled the ball in the match against Ireland, no one would deny that the Lampard shot crossed the goal line. Technology would have got those decisions 100% right instead of 100% wrong. No debate, no doubt, and no more time wasted that a quick look at a video replay.

          • Roar Guru

            April 29th 2012 @ 7:59pm
            Fussball ist unser leben said | April 29th 2012 @ 7:59pm | ! Report


            You’ve picked 2 of the most obvious decision controversies from football in the last 25 years years!

            45 years after the Russian linesman gave Geoff Hurst the goal in the 1966 FIFA WC, experts are still undecided about whether the ball crossed the line!

            5 years have passed and some experts say that Lucas Neill did foul Grosso & the penalty-decision in Kaiserslautern was correct; others say no.

            In my reckoning 90% of dubious decisions are correctly adjudicated by match officials on the pitch; and, perhaps, 7-8% are inconclusive after 50 years of video scrutiny from every possible angle.

            So, in my reckoning, of all the controversial decisions across the professional football world maybe 2-3% definitely incorrect & video technology would prevent an obvious injustice.

            Is it worth interrupting our Beautiful Game for such injustices? My emphatic answer is: “definitely NOT”.

            • April 29th 2012 @ 8:12pm
              Johnno said | April 29th 2012 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

              Fuss but why should the beautiful game simply accept the Lampard decsion and just move on.
              Should England fans move on, it can’t .

              And your quote is exactly why credibility and integrity is being lost in football and why people don’t like football and prefer sports like rugby union.
              Is it worth interrupting our Beautiful Game for such injustices? My emphatic answer is: “definitely NOT”.

              England could of own the world cup , we will now never know.
              Many full time professional gamblers who placed sports bets lost money on that England V Germany match, some big money, where is the gamblers compensation.

              These things are all injustices, and destroy the credibility of football. And if football just accepts human error then it lacks credibility. Technology is not perfect but far more accurate than humans.

              Cricket with run outs, and cricket with DRS.

              Any true football fan who believes in ethics and morals and integrity can not accept the Lampard decision, and in that case even accept the winner of the 2010 world cup as we will never know how far England a genuine contender would of gone. 2-2 at half time the match would of had a totally different energy, tension, and tactics by Capello and mindset rather than the panic football they were forced to play, by the most appalling injustice in sport i have ever seen.

              • Roar Guru

                April 29th 2012 @ 11:23pm
                Fussball ist unser leben said | April 29th 2012 @ 11:23pm | ! Report


                True football fans – the billions around the world – accept that the Beautiful Game is not perfect.

                The players aren’t perfect; the fans aren’t perfect; the match officials aren’t perfect. But – for all its imperfections – it’s the most popular sport on the planet.

                Lampard & England team mates had over an hour to score get over the linesman’s mistake. They didn’t. Instead, Lampard & his England team mates went on to concede another 3 goals.

                If you don’t accept ESP as the legitimate 2010 WC winner – far enough. I’m sure Cassilas, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi et al couldn’t care less.

                PS: If people gambling on football matches are upset they’ve lost money, here’s a bit of free advice… don’t gamble on football matches if you think the current officiating is flawed.

            • April 29th 2012 @ 8:35pm
              Philipcoates said | April 29th 2012 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

              fuss, here is the point, you ask is it worth interrupting the game … the game is already interrupted. The players are protesting, the crowd is in uproar, that match has usually stopped momentarily.

              I have given more examples that 2 in 25 years, but if you think it will only be used that often there is nothing to fear. If you think it will only fix 2-3% of controvercial decisions that are definately incorrect, shouldn’t we fix them if the means exists to do so? Shouldn’t Maradona have been booked for his handball instead of Argentina qualifying for the next round? Shouldn’t Rivaldo have been booked for his play acting instead of Ulsan being sent off? Shouldn’t Ireland have qualified for the W cup instead of France? The 2or3% are critical decisions that effect players, clubs and nations -it not a matter of life and death, its much more important than that!

              • Roar Guru

                April 29th 2012 @ 11:40pm
                Fussball ist unser leben said | April 29th 2012 @ 11:40pm | ! Report


                Where does it all end? Will your system allow player to ask for video referral for every off-side they don’t like & every alleged handball?

                Here is one example of why I NEVER want video referral interrupting any game – even when players are protesting.

                Scene: The biggest football match played in Season 5 – the 2010 HAL GF at Docklands.

                With 30 minutes to play MVFC v SFC , scores are locked at 0-0. After an MVFC corner, the ball is pushed forward to Roddy Vargas & he puts the ball into the net. The Docklands crowd are delirious for 5 seconds before we see the linesman has his flag raised. Apparently, Vargas was off-side. The ref says “no goal”.

                MVFC players protest. Whilst the fans & MVFC players are trying to argue with the ref; Bolton releases the ball and, within 15 seconds Mark Bridge has put the ball into the back of MVFC’s net and SFC lead 0-1.

                Now, if there had been a video referral system, MVFC would have challenged the offf-side & the game would stop.

                The video ref would check the video footage & would have seen Vargas was off-side. He would relay the message to the ref & the game would recommence. And, 2-3 minutes later. Bolton would take the free-kick to restart play.

                What would the video referral have achieved? For sure, Bridge wouldn’t have scored the opening goal on the counter attack b/c the game would have stopped, preventing Bolton from releasing the ball quickly. SFC would have suffered a terrible injustice when the linesman was correct all the time.

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