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Is football as we know it about to change dramatically?

By Walter Broeckx

Someone had to stick out their neck and well it seems that my country will be the first. And I have nothing to do with it. Well I think not. Or did they read what I have been saying all that time and agreed with me?  What is this all about you might ask. Well it is about something that might change the world of football dramatically.

Belgium has changed football dramatically before. Remember the Bosman-ruling that changed the transfer world a big part. And now we seem to be at it again.

But let me first try to explain a few organisations involved in this that are probably new and unknown to you.

In Belgium we have the Pro League and that is what you could call the Premier League. Not really as it is an organisation that contains all the professionals clubs in Belgium as in England it is more just the teams in the Premier League. This Pro League is an organisation that has a lot of power in Belgium as it contains the strongest teams of course.

You also have the Belgian Football Associsciation that is named the KBVB-URSBFA (we are a trilingual country so we have at least Dutch and French names for anything) and for reasons of making it easy I will just call them the Belgian FA from now on.

And then we have the Centrale Scheidsrechter Commissie (Central Referee committee). That is the committee that runs the referees in Belgium and is in fact an integral part of the Belgian FA. One could say the equivalent of the PGMOL. But I will name them CSC.

And the 4th name I should mention is FIFA. No further explanation needed I think.

So what is so important you might ask?

Well the thing is that the Pro League in Belgium has sat down with the Belgian FA and the CSC. And after a long discussion they all agreed to send a formal request to FIFA to be able to assist the referees in the Jupiler League in Belgium with video technology.

Yes you read it right. The thing I have been asking about for a few years is now in the hands of FIFA.

Belgium would be the first country to use this in their top league. And so again we might be the ones that change the football world in the future.

The CEO of the Pro League, a Mr. Sneyers, confirmed the news that they have officially asked permission to use video technology to assist referees in their league. He said: “We have sat together with the Belgian FA and the CSC to improve the refereeing standards. And all parties involved have agreed to use video technology as the way to do this. At the start of July we have submitted this desire to Fifa. We have noticed that video technology is being used in all kinds of sports, so why couldn’t it be used in football? We want to improve the refereeing standards and video technology is very suited to achieve this. We are now waiting for an answer from Fifa.”

So we are entering an important moment of time if you ask me. If FIFA would allow Belgium to introduce this it would be used from the season 2014-2015 at the earliest. But that is in fact next season. Now I do admit that the details on how to do it are not yet released so it will be interesting to see how it would be implemented.

So now the big question is: will FIFA allow it? Will FIFA stick to their stone age mentality and refuse to improve refereeing standards?  To be honest it would surprise me greatly if FIFA would allow it. Knowing how FIFA works, I think they will say no because they will not like it when the current status quo is changed that drastically.

But what is more important is that the genie has being released from the bottle. And credit where it is due, it is the Belgian football world that has been courageous enough to not only talk about improving refereeing standards but also is willing to take real steps to improve it.

It’s always easy to say : “we should improve the number of correct decisions” (in England the PGMOL even strongly deny there is a problem at all) but doing things to improve it on the field is something completely different and courageous to do.

So FIFA will know have to make their position clear. Will they allow the referee standards to improve? Or will they stick to the current situation of too many wrong decisions. What is in the best interest of football itself in the long run? Going home after a game knowing that the final score is correct and the major decisions were correct or going home feeling ripped off by the wrong decisions?

What will FIFA choose? What would you choose? I have made up my mind a long time ago. As a ref I’m all in favour of using video technology to check the main decisions.

Another news item that just came in at the end is that the refs in Belgium will be more reviewed than before. And key decisions will weigh even more than before. A wrongly awarded goal, missed red card, a wrongly cancelled goal… all will have more weight in the next season in Belgium. And as they said, it doesn’t matter if a team is 4-0 up in a game and there is something wrong with the 4-1 or 5-0. It will affect the final score when a mistake is made and it could have an influence on the final league table when it comes to goal difference.

And according to the Belgium FA the refs in the Belgian play offs had a 73% correct decisions score when it comes to key decisions. That is only key decisions like goals, penalties, diving for penalties, red cards…

I can tell you that the Belgian FA uses all video images to get to this number. Unlike Untold/Refereedecisions who can only use the images shown in the live games. I think this shows that our numbers are even covering up more mistakes than I thought because of the lack of being able to look at it from other angles and so in our reviews when we can’t see for sure we give the decisions as correct. In Belgium they can look at all the camera angles to see if a decision was correct or not.

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22 comments to Is football as we know it about to change dramatically?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Walter, This is indeed an important moment. I think that FIFA will probably stick the proverbial two fingers in the air to it though. They may even decide that if the refereeing in Belgium is in that much need of improving that the, statistically, much better PGMOL should be brought in to improve things.
    Sorry, I’m hot and bothered today and probably need to lie down in a dark room for a while till I’m better.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Wow ! Walter , a new king, a new beginning – good luck with that ! Go Belgium !

  • walter, never underestimate the capacity of humans to act like their tree-dwelling cousins. the fifa directorate love swinging from branches. bear in mind also that the less technology, the easier it is for a crooked ref to swing a game in someone’s favor. vast pools of money depend on that certainty so be hopeful for change, just don’t be optimistic.

  • Rufusstan

    Sadly I agree that FIFA will probably say no. Then again this may well be the first shot in a much larger conflict. Video tech has to be used sooner or later, and someone has to be first to push towards it.

    I’d actually love to see FIFA say yes, for both the obvious benefits, and just to see the reaction from the various organizations over here.

  • nicky

    Walter,
    Are you at heart a Republican?

  • Tangent

    I am in opposition to the use of video technology for refs because I understand how it is used here in the US for our major sports. What you are opening the door for is, essentially, TV timeouts for them to show adverts during the game. Perhaps this doesn’t matter to you because you believe a ‘true supporter’ should be at the grounds anyway…but for those of use who follow the game from another part of the world, TV commercial breaks would do a lot of damage to our enjoyment of the game.

  • Stuart

    Tangent,
    I get what you are saying which is why I would want play to carry on whilst the fourth official checks the video replay. If it is deemed the ref made an incorrect call ten play should go back, otherwise, we carry on as though nothing happened.

  • Tangent

    Stuart – I just don’t understand how you could run play back with how time is taken. You wouldn’t want to subject the time looking at a replay to the subjectivity of injury time, let alone the time spent while play continues being added on, etc.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Nicky,
    I would like to answer your question but I didn’t understand it to be honest. Or did I miss something in my article? Or is it based on something else I said somewhere else?

    Also please define what you just mean with “republican” as there are many different things. I’m not an American style republican if that is what you mean. Not that I have anything against American republicans in particular because I don’t know the country well enough to have a valid opinion on it.

    If it is someone who isn’t really fond of kings and queens and who prefers a president or just a prime minister as the head of a country then the answer is yes. I think it is not really democratic that someone who is born in a certain family has more privileges than any other person from that country and that is what kings and queens are about for me. (I admit this is also the case with other persons but in the case of kings/queens it is institutionalised (what a difficult word and hope it is correct and you understand what I mean) and thus not correct in my opinion.

    But I don’t want their heads chopped off neither 😉 Those days are behind us. Well I hope 😉

    way off topic this is 😉

  • WalterBroeckx

    Tangent,

    from further information I got it is most of all focused on the key decisions. Like when a penalty is given or not. A goal is given or should it be ruled out?

    In those instances the game is stopped most of the time and thus the reviewer can review the incidents while the players are surrounding the ref on the field and time is wasted anyhow.

    I think they have based themselves on their own numbers and they are very much in line with the numbers we have found in our reviews over here and on refereedecisions.

  • Stuart

    Tangent,
    I don’t see why not.

    If an incident happens at say 40:30 and the ref misses it, it rightfully should have been called there so if a replay deems it should have been called, then that is where play should go back to. If it was humanly possible for refs to keep up, this is the way play would have gone anyway.

  • Dec

    Your last comment says it perfectly Walter, the system works brilliantly in Rugby Union. A TMO (Television Match Official) is consulted at the referee’s discretion to confirm if a score is valid or not. The ball is usually out of play at that stage anyhow and the anticipation of the decision by the fans only adds to the excitement.
    That it would increase the accuracy of decisions cannot be in dispute, the claim that it would break the flow of the game doesn’t hold up and the notion of creating TV ad breaks as in American ‘sports’ is nonsense. The TV companies there, run the ‘sport’ purely to sell advertising, (much as they run politics there too). The governing bodies are mere cosmetic window dressing.
    Sadly FIFA are still in cave dwelling days but well done to Belguim for the initiative.

  • nicky

    Walter,
    Brickfields Gunners at 3.20 and mine of yesterday sent best wishes to you and all Belgium on the enthronement of your new King.
    As it brought no response, I thought we might have touched a raw nerve.
    It’s clear we didn’t.

  • WalterBroeckx

    As long as I don’t get my tax bill and think of what they get and tax free I just ignore them 😉

    But thanks anyway to the best wishes that I seemed to have missed in the heath of the “fight” with all those AAA on the site for the moment.

    And my best wishes for the new born child in England.
    And to all those other children that were born on the same day. Let us hope they all live a happy life.

  • Dec

    Sadly, some will have a silver spoon while others will know only an empty spoon.
    Allez la Republique!!!

  • weedonald

    Video review technology is intended to help officials make accurate and precise decisions where such decisions can impact the results and fairness of the game for either side. In tennis, American football, ice hockey and rugby, all sports that rarely have a excessive stoppage time, it works very well. Therefore, why would it not work in Football? It is simply a matter of mechanics.

    1)If it is used for crucial and contestable events such as goals scored, offsides, serious fouls and violent behaviour leading to ejections,etc. then the 4th official and maybe a techniciancan review the incident and in a matter of seconds, inform the referee of what they saw. the decision to rescind the original call or maintain it still rests with the referee.

    2)In cases where the contestable event occurred away from the run of play (biting, hidden fouling, or whatever), the 4th official can inform the referee and the referee still has the option to continue play or punish the offence retroactively.

    3)In the case of a goal scored and subsequently contested, the referee can review it with the 4th official and before play is restarted, award or deny the goal. Once he restarts play the goal stands regardless.

    4) A big advantage of the VT is that an assessor can sit with the referee and review his calls and errors,successes immediately after the game….a very handy instructional tool indeed.

    Football does not lend itself to unsolicited advertising and wouldn’t be overly inclined to change that, even with VT. there is also the Goal-line technology that really needs to be applied,hand -in-hand with VT. congratulations to the Belgians….once again taking the lead.
    Also my best wishes to England’s new Royal! I heard he is already an Arsenal fan!!!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Dom – I was about to say the same about the new arrival but you’ve beaten it to me so I’ll just suggest some names for him to choose from .

    1) Arsene –
    2) Henry
    3) Frederick
    4) Charles
    5) George

    I’m also going to place a bet that the first word he says will be ‘Arsenal ‘!

  • colario

    I share the fear of Tangent that what will be video review at the game will morph into commercials on TV.

    I think though the idea should be tried out. Preseason friendlies I think would be the ideal games for the experiment and should take place in as many countries as possible.

    All findings then to be made public and opinions taken before any decision is made.

    However how do we stop the TV companies turning stoppages into advertising profit as happens in the States?

  • nicky

    @ Brickfields Gunners,
    Considering Prince William is alleged to support Aston Villa, the poor little mite will soon learn that “Arsenal” is a nasty word in his home.

  • Stuart

    Colario,
    You don’t need to have stoppages, this is an American thing.

    Why the hell can’t play continue and a review be requested and conducted separately to the game on the sidelines at the managers request with the 4th / a 5th official?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Nicky – Maybe his mum might direct him towards the one true faith ; the beacon of hope and the bulwark of the beautiful game .
    Hope that sounded sufficiently condescending enough to get the AAA retching !

  • Tangent

    Walter –

    Point well taken about the time wasted surrounding the ref. I’m not opposed to the technology itself, I just fear that TV ads will be inserted in that space which really would put a damper on my enjoyment.