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Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Case for Video Review - A Rebuttal

After hearing last week's Sound Of Football podcast on technology in football, long time listener, Michael Richard has written a rebuttal which we are delighted to publish.

After listening to the latest Sound Of Football podcast which was entitled "Revisiting Technology in Football", I felt compelled to express my counterarguments to the points that were being made.  This particular podcast was a continuation of an earlier episode which came out in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup which ironically contained one of the more famous cases for the involvement of technology in football.

I will try to address all the arguments that were made in the podcast, which happen to correspond with many of the same arguments I've heard over the years against the introduction of video review in Football.  I will be coming at this topic from a North American perspective which differs substantially from a traditional British view about changing the game football in any significant manner but I can't help that so bear with me.

I should state that I'm making the point for video review for any questions of whether a goal has been scored.  I'm not in favour of using video review for any other type of disputed call (fouls, offsides) because it's much harder to incorporate that into the game without a major disturbance and because these calls usually don't directly affect the outcome of matches.  There is a lot of talk about different types of "Goal Line Technology" that could be introduced and there are proposals being made to FIFA to this effect.  This seems like a classic case of trying to kill a fly with a nuclear weapon.  Trying to solve a problem by introducing a technology that is not proven, whether it be a chip in the ball or something similar to Hawkeye, when it could be done cheaper and faster with technology that is already in the game i.e. cameras.

One point that was made against using cameras on the goal line was that if you have to rely on television companies supplying the video there may be a bias or conspiracy against showing all the angles.  The way you get around this is by giving the league access to the camera footage.  This can be done as part of the deal allowing the cable company to broadcast the matches that the league must have access all the footage necessary to decide whether the ball has crossed the line.  The league can also specify if a camera is needed at a certain angle or location like inside the goal.

Another way to remove any potential bias is by removing the decision making from the referee on the field as it may be unreasonable to ask one man/woman to go against there own decision or against the crowd and reverse their call.  The video should be sent either to another official at the match or, preferably, the league headquarters where there will be people trained to make these decisions on standby.  This can be done as fast as any replay that is shown on television which as we all know only takes a matter of seconds before multiple angles are able to be shown and the decision can then be communicated to the officials on the pitch via their fancy headsets.  This would ensure consistency across all the matches as the decisions would be made from a central location.  It may not remove all the accusations of bias towards the "big clubs" but there is probably no solution which would remove that completely.

One popular argument against using video replay for goal line decisions is that sometimes there is no angle that shows definitively whether the ball has crossed the line.  Even with the multitude of high-definition cameras that are at every top-level match nowadays this is a very real possibility.  As was shown in the recent FA Cup semifinal between Chelsea and Tottenham.  If there is no conclusive evidence upon review showing that the call made on the field is wrong then you differ to the original call made by the official.  This may lead to some discussion and arguments after the match as there will always by differing opinions about what was seen but isn't this one of the arguments against technology all together?  Removing the human element?  Fans will still have something to argue about on a Monday morning so everyone is happy.

I've also heard many people state that introducing this technology, any technology in fact, would have to be incorporated up and down the football pyramid as every game in England has the same elements whether you're in the Premier League or the Isthmian League Division One North.  This argument is just false in it's basic premise as not all matches today have the same elements.  Such as the quality of the referee which varies greatly between leagues, the quality of the pitches and the television coverage, that is assuming there's any at all.  So introducing one more element to the top league in the country will not be a great deviation from gap that is already present between the leagues.

Some may make the argument that introducing this type of technology will open the door to video review being used for a multitude of issues and then where will it stop?  I don't see this happening as is much harder to justify that a wrong offside call would have necessary resulted in a goal being scored or even that a malicious tackle that was missed would have gifted the game to the other team.  The same can not be said of whether the ball has crossed the line.  Goals are the one and only deciding factor in a football match which makes getting the decision right about balls crossing the line so essential.

Football fans who to this day are still saying that technology in football will just not work should ask themselves why just about every other major sport in the world uses technology of some kind.  It seems to work everywhere else so why not professional football?

Michael is a Newcastle fan and blogger form Canada. His NUFC blog is here and you can follow him on Twitter here.