By Walter Broeckx
What seemed impossible and what was laughed away by some when I first wrote about it on Untold is coming closer. Yes video refereeing is more and more likely to become a reality in a few seasons. To be honest it should have been here already but I accept that this takes time. I remember being laughed away by a top class referee in Belgium some 10 years ago. He didn’t need any assistance was his arrogant answer at the time. A few months ago he send off the wrong player in a case of mistaken identity. A video ref surely would have saved him some blushing. He then stopped his career on the field and will now work for our FA to help the refs. Oh yes in Belgium they also are working hard to bring in the video ref. He will know what to do now…and why it is needed.
Now introducing a video ref will cost some money. As you need another referee to sit in the TV studio who can look at the incidents. They estimate that the cost in Belgium will be around 1,5M euro. That is roughly £ 1.279.800 according to my online programme. In a league where they have so much money flowing around you can buy half a leg of a player for that amount it is peanuts. So money can be no excuse to hold it back in the PL.
So on the day it arrives I will be crowing around a bit telling everyone that I was in favour of the idea long before it was even talked about. But I bet my money on it that the first “victim” of a video ref decision will be Arsenal. That is how those things can go.
BUT that would be no real problem for me. Because I have said on so many occasions that I don’t want Arsenal to win in a bad way. Yes, I do want them to win but it gives me a bad taste in the mouth such a win. When my son texted me that Koscielny was offside when he was fouled it made the level of joy drop a few points on my joy scale. Later when I saw the whole picture of Moss I could accept and enjoy the win more. But reality is I want us to win but… fair and square.
But when it comes to winning fair and square there is not just the ref possibly at fault. The ref might have a bad day, he might be biased, he might be just bought… but that is only one side of the story. The other part I will take on now and in fact I think that the video ref might be the long term answer to his other problem I have with football.
If for the sake of it we will accept that all refs are really 100% honest, have no bias whatsoever and are real gentleman. Okay… but for the sake of it, just try for the length of this article.
Because the way players behave it is very, very difficult to make correct calls for such a referee. Is it the fault of the referee that he falls for a dive in the penalty area? In a way not. It is the fault of the player that tries to con the referee. We mostly put blame on the referee (and so do we in the referee reviews) but the person who should be on trial when a player dives and wins a penalty is… the player.
And we know that some players have become real experts in falling down as if been shot in the penalty area. Players tripping themselves up in a wood of legs, difficult to see for the ref. But some players have no honour and selfrespect and will do anything to win a game of football. Including diving, kicking an opponent and whatever that is not allowed.
Some players have no honesty at all. They cheat, lie, pull, punch, … all because they are having the “right spirit” as the pundits will say.
If we compare football with other sports I sadly have to admit that football is a terrible sport. The level of cheating is amazing. Now I am not an expert in lots of other sports but it seems to me that in other sports there is a great emphasis on not just winning but also on winning in the right way. I have (I don’t see it a lot so could have missed it) never seen rugby teams running up to referees in packs in order to tell him what an idiot he is. There isn’t a football match or this happens umpteen times.
Do we have to accept this? Of course not. Because we assumed refs would be honest for this article and so if he makes on honest mistake there is no need to rub his nose in it. Just get on with the game. A video ref might correct him if it was for a penalty foul or a ball crossing the goal line or not.
I have watched some hockey on the last Olympics and the way the refs do their job and work with the video ref that already exists in hockey was a real eye opener to me. But in hockey that is a real gentleman’s sport in my opinion and even in Rugby they seem to have embraced the notion of wining fair and square. And let’s admit it when you see them clashing and coming together you wouldn’t bring rugby and fair play together in one sentence. And yet it looks like that to me. I don’t know the rules of Rugby enough to recognise any cheating but it sure doesn’t look like cheating to me.
But in football that was once called a sport for gentleman (compared to rugby) we see cheating in each and every match. And that is not the fault of the ref of course.
Somehow in football (and some will call me an old fashion romantic for this) we lost our sense of fair play and honesty. Because we must and need to win. At all expenses. At all costs. Even if it would take the live of another player, some players will not hesitate to make that foul just to make sure they win the match.
Isn’t that a disgusting way of practicing a sport? Humans can behave badly and surely it seems that football players are very good at behaving very badly.
Arsenal Kindle News
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.