By Walter Broeckx
Is the Untold Arsenal campaign really going to lead to a change in refereeing? It seems that for the first time the answer could be yes!
Sticking your neck out isn’t always easy. You get ridiculed. You are called all sorts of names. But I have never backed away from explaining and defending what I believe in. And as I am a referee myself I am more or less used to getting shit (not literally of course) thrown at me. So in all my years of writing for Untold I never really was feeling bad about names they called me.
Writing about referees is of course always a bit problematic. You have lots of black and white but also a fair amount of grey decisions. But at the end of the day we (and this has been a work of many people) have always taken decisions based on what we saw from the TV images. We were the video ref.
Now I will not claim to have been the one who invented this. Checking referee decisions with the help of images. In fact it has been there since the first match was televised long long time ago.
But I think that it is fair to say that our little blog (compared to all the big media companies around the world of course) has been the first to really take this matter to another level. And by being completely open about it and talking about every decision we have been at a level that was unseen before. And maybe it is the fact that Untold has risen from a handful of readers eight years ago, to over 5,600,000 page views this year, helps the campaign a bit too.
Again I cannot thank enough the people who have been helping me with this project.
One of the items I have connected to our reviewing of the refs was not just the reviews but also the question: how to make decisions more accurate on the field. And then the best answer I could give was: use video refereeing on the spot. When I launched this idea 5 or 6 years ago I was called various names. But since then there has been a lot of movement in different countries. The Dutch FA has been a front runner and has experimented on this and asked permission to FIFA and IFAB to go further with it. The Belgian FA has also asked to these organisations to introduce this in the future.
(Just to explain, the International Football Association Board – IFAB – is the formal body that approves changes to the rules, which then relate to football worldwide. It is made up of representatives from England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland, representing the founders of the game, and representatives from Fifa. To get a change agreed it is necessary for the Fifa delegate and two of the four UK delegates to agree. Then the change becomes law in all football jurisdictions.)
And now… and reading it was hard to believe at first… the PL is going to ask the clubs if they would agree to test video refereeing in the future! I had to check if it wasn’t April 1st but no the article is from December 22. Unless this is the new April Fools day we can assume it is a serious article.
So the FA/PL has written a letter to all the PL clubs to ask them if they want to go further with this idea and introduce it over time. The letter was written on December 18 and clubs should answer before January 6. And if the majority wants to go along with this the FA/PL intends to start a working group on February 4.
Are you still sitting in your chair? Or have you fallen to the ground like I almost did? (I’ve got armrests on the chair I was sitting in when I read the news, so I couldn’t fall off…)
So what are the decisions the FA/PL will ask to review by a video ref? In their letter they speak of: Red cards, penalty kicks, goals, violent conduct, offsides and incidents off the ball.
In fact they could have picked this from the various articles I have written as that is exactly what I have been calling for all those years. It felt like shouting in the dessert at times what I did but slowly more and more the football authorities are moving to what I have been asking for.
I know that in the past few years a lot of Premier League and Football League referees have followed our reviews with great interest. Some refs did it to learn from (yes that is what I have been told by those on the inside) our observations, and to improve their own game. (I will not be giving any names, by the way. I know the names and that is enough). They have been in touch and spoken with each other about it. And yes Untold is well known, if not always popular, among the referees.
And now the PL is trying to do what we have been asking for all those years.
In a way this is also a big smack in the face for Mike Riley. The man of the “over 95% correct decisions on the field” with only “24 wrong decisions in total” statistics. If his numbers had been correct then there would have been no need to change anything. But it seems that he is the only one to believe his numbers.
As the circulation of the discussion questionnaire on how to make decisions more correct on the field shows, there is an awareness that there are too many mistakes being made by the referees. Indeed, why else work on video refereeing if the numbers of Riley would be correct?
I think that the truth is that our Untold numbers have been far more correct than the numbers of Riley. Actually, “Think” is putting it mildly in fact. “I know for fact” would be better. And I think that the FA/PL have opened their eyes and silently have agreed with our numbers and came to the conclusion that something had to be done about it.
And as we have always not only pointed out the problems but also offered a straightforward solution, they are trying to go for the Untold solution: bring in video refereeing.
Of course the IFAB has to agree with this and that might be a stumbling block. But as the FA is one of the members of IFAB, and given that we wouldn’t have got this far if Fifa were not in favour, it now only needs one of the Wales, N Ireland or Scotland reps to vote for it, and we are there.
In a reaction Graham Poll said that his first reaction was “Hallelujah.” So was mine. Hallelujah. Praise Untold. Praise the million plus Untold readers who’ve visited the site this year.
Some more anniversaries
- 24 December 1932: Arsenal 9 Sheffield Wed 2. It meant that thus far in the season Arsenal had in different games scored 6, 7, 8 and 9 goals. (Lambert scored 5 – which turned out to be his final hatrick (plus 2!) It was his 12th hat trick – more than any other player in the club’s history).
- 24 December 1938: John Barnwell born. After playing as an amateur for Bishop Auckland he moved to Arsenal in 1955 turned pro in 1956 and started playing for the first team in the match against Sunderland on 13 April 1957.
Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99. For more details and to buy a copy please click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search for Woolwich Arsenal.