Standing still is not an option. The Video ref is on his way

By Walter Broeckx

Since I started writing for Untold a few years ago one of my main interests has been in writing about referees. As a referee myself I think I can add a bit of extra insight in the refereeing world and from my own experience I can see how and what can improve football and refereeing.

A few years ago when I started doing the reviews of referees in Arsenal matches I got a lot of praise but also some people were rather critical. No problem with that of course. But one of the things that was said was something like: “well as all refs are human we just should accept they make mistakes and just live with it.”  If our ancestors had adopted that and just accepted that they could only eat raw meat from the animals they could kill we still would probably live in caves and beat each other to dead with sticks. On second thought looking at the news…we should have done that maybe….

But of course not. Standing still is not an option. We have to improve to make things better. By doing that humanity has made it possible that you can read this and that I can publish this. Because of people working on what at first sight were ridiculous ideas but that are now seen as things that we can file under: ‘how on earth did we ever managed to live without it?’.

This long introduction brings me to the real subject of this article. Can we help referees? And across the years of writing for Untold I have given a few suggestions. One of them was that we can help referees with giving them assistance from outside. The so called video referee.  People laughed it away. Called me names for it. But that is the price you have to pay when you come up with new ideas. Not that I claim to be the original inventor of video referees. No I just have been one of their fiercest defenders for many years.

We know the “negative things” that are said against the use of video referees. That it will slow down the match. That is one of the most heard things.  And that we aren’t like American Football which is a start/stop sport, unlike football.  And in American football you can use it as after each move the game is stopped. Would it really slow down a football match? Well we might be able give you an answer to that.

Because my wild support of this wild idea and making Untold the site of the tin foil hat carriers is maybe not that wild and stupid. Because some national football associations do support the idea.

A few seasons ago I wrote an article in support of the use of a video ref. This was based on an incident that happened in the Dutch league. A top match that could be decisive for the title ended up in a possible referee nightmare. A defender stopping the ball on the line with his hand was missed by the referee as his sight was blocked by some 10 players and the assistant couldn’t see it as his sight was also blocked by the goal post and other players on the line.

The whole stadium had seen it, the TV cameras showed it. Fortunately the outcome of the match was not put upside down by that miss. The team that should have had a penalty and seen a player from the other team being send off still won the match.

As this was the Dutch TV the referee opted to talk to the media after the match. In Holland the referees can talk with the media just like the players and give information on their decisions and how they saw things. They can also refuse to talk to the media. It is up to the referee alone to decide what he will do. The usual procedure is that they then look at the images and then say if they think their decision was right or wrong and how they came to that decision on the field. Sometimes it ends up with the ref apologising for a mistake, sometimes there are proven as correct decisions. It goes both ways.

I still remember the horror on the ref his face when looking at the images of the handball on the goal line. He apologised but also explained why he couldn’t see it and also his assistant couldn’t see it. And then he said something like this (not literally written down after all those years of course): “These things shouldn’t happen in football today. This could have decided the league in the wrong way. We as referees have been asking for years at the KNVB (Dutch FA) to try to help us out. We must do something about it to avoid such things in the future. We need assistance from outside. It is ridiculous that a decision that can be seen by the whole stadium but. because of bodies between the incident and the ball, can’t be seen by the ref.”

The Dutch referees had the same view as I have had for many years: referees need all the help they can get. And the best way forward is the use of video referees.

Now we know that such incidents happen in all leagues. And it gets talked about for a few days. Big capital letters and lots of exclamation marks are used and then after a few days the media shift their attention to something else and it gets forgotten.

Fortunately the Dutch are different. And they said: now is the time to work on this. And so they did. I could say Untold Arsenal and the Dutch KNVB were and are on the same wavelength on this.  And as we are powerless about such things, the KNVB isn’t and they took action. And the first results of this taking action have now been revealed. And it leads to some really interesting things. Things we will talk about in the next article. Stay tuned.

The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

24 Replies to “Standing still is not an option. The Video ref is on his way”

  1. Join the 21St cent. How long do we have to wait , while refs have more pressure heapped on them. These days it could be replayed as rugby league . The pro players could also take a lesson from rugby with their Constant circling of ref at any decision.
    When there is so much money involved the investment by premier league to refs and tech as more digital age why are we solely relient on a refs vision which cannot look past 160° .
    Please bring in vid refs!!!!!!!

  2. Video technology is essential for the good of the game. I have deep suspicions as to why the regulators have been against it. Let’s do all we can to help the honest referees, and expose the others, technology can only help.

  3. There is no rational or reasonable explanation that can be given to excuse the gap between the aid given to the officials in say, Field Hockey, and the worlds biggest sport: Association Football.

    Incidentally the Dutch coaches of the seventies looked to Field Hockey for their inspiration. And they in turn have inspired coaches in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium etc…

    Field Hockey is a harder game to officate then Association Football in my humble opinion (lots of sticks in the way, faster smaller ball to see etc.).Those whose task it is to support the referees in Association Football have not been giving them the aid that their peers have been able to demand in other smaller less wealthy sports. For one reason or another *coughs*.

  4. This is good news – perhaps a small step just now, but certainly a step in the right direction.

    If we had had video technology at the Emirates Cup…….

  5. Video technology, the only sensible way forward for me. I simply do not understand why apparently sane people argue against it, even some Arsenal supporters who regularly curse the refs but still do not want help from video replays. Walter gives the example of the Dutch referee and I would draw a parallel to the penalty fiasco on Sunday where the correct decision could have been given in a matter of seconds by referring to an official with access to the camera replays. Imagine if it had been in the Cup Final, or in a decisive Champions League game. I hope that in your next article you are going to tell us that the Dutch FA are going to introduce technology Walter, it’s about time someone took the step.

  6. I agree. The game only needs to be stopped when the ref decision is wrong. A ref must watch video stream and be in contact with the main ref by their radio headsets. That is all it takes. 1 second after the ref has blown, he could inform the ref of his wrong decision.

  7. para

    What you’re suggesting sounds fine, an off field ref monitoring the game in real time and informing the on field ref of any errors. There’s always the possibility of both of them getting it wrong, but two pair of eyes is better than one.
    Judgmental decisions ( like issuing cards, awarding free kicks etc ) should be the sole concern of the on field guys, but could be overruled by the off field ref.

  8. Like the one ZOLA scored against Manure,what about the one Caroll pulled against spurs?? And of all those Manure went on to win with one and two points from us. If the video thing was there Manure will be having only 3 premiership with Furgus.

  9. I hadn’t realised that some foreign leagues had already implemented changes. Looking forward to part 2.

  10. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be introduced but if it is it will have to be introduced for everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.

    Just imagine it’s only introduced for Offside/Onside and in/out of the box decisions.

    Then take this scenario:

    56 Mins. A penalty for Manchester Utd was given, then ruled out because video technology was used to show the foul was outside the box.

    91 mins. A winning goal stands despite the fact tv showed there was clearly a hand ball in the build up but technology is not used for that kind of decision.

    Uproar. Can you imagine United’s outrage. The media outrage. Just imagine if it was Arsenal that got the victory !!!

    Doesn’t bear thinking about.

    It’s all or nothing and I really do think that is the stumbling block.

  11. It has transformed Test Cricket with so many bad decisions overturned. It feels so good when proper justice is done, perhaps even when it goes against your own team.
    If you watched any of the current England v India Tests you will have seen bad decision after bad decision go unchallenged because India is the only cricketing nation not to accept the video review system.
    It has totally justified the use of video evidence and would settle so many injustices of the sort that have occurred in football in the past eg one that really hurts was when a Thierry Henry shot was blocked on the line by the arm of Liverpool defender Stéphane Henchoz in the 2001 Cup Final and a penalty not given – need I say more.

  12. It hasn’t been implemented as if it was, it could not be able to be manipulated.

  13. Note to Jason: we have deleted your excellent comment as suggested. Please some back somewhere tomorrow as we are not finished yet. Sorry once again.

  14. Jambug

    It’s this “all or nothing” approach you and many others have suggested that is slowing down the process of introducing any video technology into football , I m afraid. One look at the faces of people in charge of running the game and you will know that you are more likely to book a trip to the Moon before you get “all”.

    The more pragmatic approach is to chip away at their stubborn,entrenched and out dated perception of football one little concession at a time.
    Judging by how long we had to wait for the goal line technology, I’m not very optimistic.

    I’ll take a “blown ” handball call in a build up to a goal over what happened against Monaco, any day of the week. That was just embarrassing even for a friendly game.

  15. As I said the other day, I would go further. It would be expensive to have the technicians and equipment at every ground, but a technical centre in say Manchester and one in London, it would be possible to have as many ‘booths’ running as there were games.
    With all games being televised, and high definition fibre connection, all this 4th official would need is a bank of monitors running at say; real time; plus 10 seconds, and plus 20 seconds, which would allow them to get the right time slot. Which, if the trained technical advisor can bring any number of angles for the official to make a decision. If that cannot be done within 30 seconds, either the on-field referee’s decision stands, or if it needs further scrutiny, the decision could be made after the match. Similar to what happens in Formula 1. Or things such as ‘off the ball’ incidents that do not effect the immediate play, but can be brought to the ref’s attention at the next stoppage.
    It is the technical advisor that would be an extra cost, and the the setting up and maintaining the equipment as another.
    The whole process can be relayed back to the ground and made available to the media in general.
    It does not take a genius to work out that this would do away with any bias, and get rid of thuggery on the pitch.

    In order to get the current referees prepared for this, as they climb the ladder to the EPL matches, the Championship could have a simplified version with 4th official at the match just watching the time delay screens.
    However, in matches where there is a high profile match, due to the importance of the result, the lower tier could request the ‘full monty’ at one of the technical centres.

    The real key to its success would be in the skill of the technical advisor to know exactly what camera angle will bring up the best view. I would suggest that most teenage ‘gamers’ would be ideal recruits?

    I repeat what I said the other day. The actual real time play is controlled by the on-field referee, which he could call for assistance himself, or it can be brought back to where an error has clearly been made. It does open the possibility of players, who dispute decisions want to call up the technical official, and could be a can of worms. However, like in tennis or cricket, if they have a limit to the number the TEAM can call up to settle matters. it should fade away. Especially if their limit is reached and no change to the decision is made on all calls, the sanction of the team dropping a league point would hit home fast?

    Perhaps not in my lifetime, but one day ….

  16. Video replays monitored by a second referee for clarification is long overdue.

  17. In the National hockeiy League they introduced video replays about 20 years ago and it is used just for dubious goals. If the referee is uncertain about whether it wne across the line or not he calls up to a video booth where professionals analyze the video (in net,above net) and tell him a yes or no. The NHL also reserves the right to review incidents in the game that the referees and linesmen may have missed, other than goals scored. If a penalty was not called but should have been and IF the penalty caused injury or similar damage, then the NHL can suspend and fine the guilty party(ies) retroactively. This helps keep the game under control very well and avoids any rancour after the fact.
    We need the goal line technology combined with video replays in Football. The time lost argument is spurious and untrue. It will take less time to review an incident and allow the referee to decide what to do than it takes when a bad call is made and the players mob the official(s) and waste 2-3 minutes in bad-tempered confrontation.

  18. The only legitimacy a football game has comes from its rules or laws. This is fundamental to all concerned parties and delivers ‘justice’ on the field of play. To oppose available technology that enhances the application of the rules of the game calls justice and fairplay on the field of play into question. To argue that technology would take away from a historical cultural practice is to argue for a mystification of why referees do what they do; and in light of what Untold has painstakingly revealed about the premiership referees’ various dispositions regarding ‘darling’ clubs and the ‘whipping’ boys gives greater strength to the view that the factors that dominate this sport has more to do with the politics of this sport than the competitiveness on the field of play.

  19. It’s clear those that oppose video refereeing know they gain from the unfairness of it all. It’s a bit like discounting conclusive dna evidence in court, potentially condemning innocent people to a life sentences they should not be serving. Ok, not quite at the same level but it’s ludicrous not to rely on conclusive evidence/technology when it’s there. It’s crazy.

    I’m excited about seeing new players such as Campbell, Sanchez, and others in our colours but also fearful of what the mob will do. I’m dreading the inevitable pain and suffering they’ll put us through again. I can’t wait to see the new players in action but at the same time don’t want the league to start. I can’t think of anything else that causes me as much heartache on a regular basis as football. Of course there are other misfortunes that can befall one that are just as painful if not worse, but everything being equal one does not expect to go through that almost on a weekly basis.

  20. omg,

    To add some numbers, here’s what my experience of using recorded TV shows in the last 3 years brought me:
    – a throw in takes about 10-15 seconds to execute. 15 seconds is already a bit of time wasting.
    – a free kick or corner kick takes about 15-30 seconds to execute, with 20 seconds being the average.
    – a penalty takes around 1 minute, but more than that is not uncommon. The most that I can remember was actually a rather recent incident, in last season’s Italian League, when the players and the ref argued for 5 (!) minutes.

    On this basis, it’s easy to notice that replaying the last 15 seconds of play does NOT slow down the game. Only if the decision is debatable (no pun intended), then more in-depth scrutiny is required, but then it’s foreseeable that there would have been arguments anyway, so again a parallel video assistant does not impede the flow of the game in 90% of the cases. Where it does slow it down is uncalled fouls by the ref – which our dear Sir Alex was a big adept of. I don’t think that is a sustainable argument against video replays though:)

  21. Walter, I always love reading your views on refereeing. Very insightfull and thought provoking.
    I coach u11 and u12 on the recreational level and am working on my D level liscence which is the lowest of the “serious” badges in the US. From time to time a referee is a no show in which case a each coach usually takes a half and any parents who understand the offside rule are drafted in for linesmen, you would be shocked how many people here have no idea what offsides is. All that being said refereeing 11 year olds, which I am a good foot taller than, is one of the most difficult things I can imagine. You have to make split second decisions while under pressure from players and supporters alike while running and staying out of the way. I would suggest anyone who has never refereed a match should give it go because it’s not as simple as many think. Any help should be welcomed with open arms by anyone who loves football and any opposition from governing bodies makes me truly suspisous as to what their underlying motives are.

  22. Florian has a great point.
    What about:
    1-video referees
    2-stopping the clock when the ball is not in play; clock not kept by referee
    3-yellow cards to players preventing teams awarded free kicks to take these kicks
    4-disappearing paint for all free kicks and yellow cards for transgressors
    5-no more throws; replace them by indirect free kicks from the line
    6-public slime shower for referees when video referee disagrees with them a lot
    7-adopt electronic Belgian system for off-side decisions, if still available

  23. We know the following:

    1. Football is fixed! (Official) Video referee would just mess things up for those responsible for this. And it would have meant the Invincibles would have gone 2 seasons unbeaten…

    2. (Unofficial) Video refereeing is already in use! They use it for their own agenda though. See all “retroactive” bans, including: Suarez biting(s), Zidane WC final, Chambo/Gibbs red card, etc.

  24. Tom

    I’m not saying ‘I’ want it for everything. I’m just suggesting a scenario that could happen if only certain things where ‘reviewed’.

    And what’s more, if, as in the scenario I used, it went against United there would be uproar.

    That’s all I’m saying.

    It needs to come but how?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *