The case for video evidence – in some cases

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by Walter Broeckx

Introducing video evidence without delaying the game.

As you know I don’t spare my criticism when I see bad referee decisions. I always try to do this by explaining it with the rule book.  I also try to see if the ref could have done better and even try to see if there are circumstances which could lead to the conclusion that the ref could not see it. I know the difficulties that you can face as a ref – like players that can block your view or just the fact that the human eye can fail at times.

But every coin has two sides and now I just would like to concentrate on the other side of the coin. Being a ref is not the easiest thing in the world. Just as I think that most players come on the field to play the game in good spirit and within the rules and with fair play I also believe that most refs come on the field to do their game as neutral as can be. If you manage as a ref to be neutral in your game you have already succeeded for a big part.  So in this article I would like to ask to start with keeping in mind that we speak of refs who want to do the job in the right way.

Apart from the fact that not all refs come on the field with this intention it is also a fact that many players come on the field and will do all and everything to win the game. If this means they have to cheat for this they will do it. If this means they have to influence the ref and his assistants they will do so. It is those players that make life difficult for the ref.

What things do I mean and how could we stop them? And how can we stop this without interrupting the flow of the game?

An action seen on many fields involves players who letting it be known by gestures that the ref and/or  his assistant really know nothing about football. How many times do you see when an assistant gives an offside the attacker making gestures with his hand to make sure the fans know that he had it all wrong?

And yes it could well be that the assistant made a mistake. But when we look at replays we find that most of the time the assistant was right. But because of the player on the field letting everyone know that the assistant made a mistake this undermines the credibility of the assistant. Because the fans rather would believe their players and not the assistant. So I would say: ban those gestures. In fact these gestures are to be seen as an accusation of the ref or his assistant for doing it wrong. Now we live in a free world and we have the right to accuse other people if we think they done us wrong. But if, based on clear evidence, we can see that the accusations were wrong then we also should be able to punish the persons who accused the ref falsely.

Yesterday I was looking at the cup final in Germany and the assistant gave an offside decision against Robben. A replay showed that the assistant was correct but it was a close call. Arjen Robben was off course convinced he was on side and he waved his arm high in the air in the direction of the linesman to let the fans in the stadium know that the assistant was wrong. Now the presenter on the German TV praised the linesman for his decision so the fans at home knew he did a great job. But the people in the stadium don’t know this and they rather believe their own player and not the linesman. By making these gestures Robben undermines the authority of that assistant in the stadium and we should try to avoid those things. Respecting the decision of the ref and his assistants should be part of football players’ mentality.

I can hear some people think  this would get the emotion out of the game and yes you are right. So I don’t suggest to give a yellow card for every gesture a player makes in those cases. No only if the gesture can be looked upon as unacceptable the ref on the field should take action. It would be much better that a committee should look at the images and if the assistant was correct and the players gesture was wrong he should get a yellow card behind his name.

The same thing should be the case when the ref gives a foul and a players makes the “no” gesture or when he shakes his head in some kind of disbelief.  I think everyone knows what I mean, and if you don’t just look at most of the games and you can see many examples of it. So again the ref on the field should not take action. Yes again we leave it up to the committee that looks at the incident and if the player was right, no action should be taken but if the ref was right and the gestures were out of place we give that player another yellow card.

So this would mean that players on the field will think twice before making gestures that undermine the credibility of the ref. The ref is facing a difficult task and if the players make it more difficult by cheating or making gestures we must punish them when the cheating is clear to see or when the gestures are out of place.

At first players will not stop their behaviour. It will be after a few weeks when they suddenly see that they get a lot of yellow cards and face a suspension that they will start to think about their acts on the field. The final result will be that the gestures will stop and this will make the task of the ref more simple.  He doesn’t have to react to the gestures, unless really out of order, and he knows that the players will be punished if they accuse the refs false.

So yes players still can express their emotions. They can do this as much as they want. But they know that trying to influence the ref can turn against their team and  themselves after the game.

The flow of the game stays the same as in the game it will have no influence.

And most of all after a few weeks or months we will see coming an end to all the gesturing towards the officials and players will think twice before they try to influence the ref because that is their main goal. By making those gestures they want to put doubt in the refs mind and hope that when the next situation comes up the ref will look at it like the players want him to look at it. A ref with doubt in his mind is a ref that is starting to lose control and once the players are taking over the ref has lost his game.

Another benefit will be that youth players also don’t see those bad examples anymore on the field and they will not try to copy that behaviour when they play. Believe me if you see football at lower level or with the youth teams you will see how much they copy the behaviour of the superstars in the game.

And if you ask me who should be in such a committee, then I would suggest two ex-referee’s, two ex players from the PFA union and one judge who should be specialised in sports. Let us play the game with respect for both sides from both sides and let us stop with all the gesturing and cheating on the field.

Final note: after writing this article I saw that Arsenal has won the fair play league this season and I must say that it is something that makes me proud of my team.


The Index of Indexes to Everything Positive and Nice (except Fifa and its bent world cup)

Woolwich Arsenal – now there is a club on the brink of disaster

The Book – not as useful as the Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy, but still, quite good for a read during the summer break.

15 Replies to “The case for video evidence – in some cases”

  1. Sounds like you want robots to be playing!

    A player can no longer shake his head in disagreement with a decision!

    I know you are a ref Walter but is it really that secluded a position on the pitch that your testosterone doesn’t flow, you’re competative edge doesn’t lead you. What you have proposed here is a neutering of footballers. I agree that players screaming foul abuse in a ref’s face is wrong but no shaking of the head. Just WOW!

    When I get my gas bill I usually shake my head, do you think this means I am disputing it or that the realisation I have overspent is driving the shake of the head?

    Do you think Sol should have been punished for shaking his head at the ref after his backpass against Barca, or Steven Gerrard after doing the same against Chelsea. Would this not warrant a red card as they are disputing a goal scoring chance!

  2. Ah yes, the old ‘Robot’line.

    That must be exactly the reason why even those old stooges, the MCC have been happy to introduce video replays into their sacred cow, Test Cricket.

    I guess Cricket’s credibility must have been so high, that they didn’t need video replays…wait! I think I might have got that last sentence the wrong way round.

    What’s the expression?
    The Bleach Brigade?

    Video replays?
    No excuse not to have them.

  3. This is a good article when thinking logically so il praise you for that, however the fact remains that football is a sport full of passion which contain emotions that are in essence hard to conrol. Once the adrenaline is flowing in your body its difficult to not disagree when a ref thinks you have fouled someone when you believe you havent. Like you said in the beginning, “the human eye can fail at times”, and by saying that there should be a committee to decide upon the actions taken against players for disagreeing with the ref brings about even more problems than u plan to solve. Imagine, since they can hand out yellow cards to players, can they also take some away? And if they can take it away, can they reduce a red card to a yellow? I want goal line technology in the game and maybe some video technology for a foul in the box but anything else is ridiculous

  4. i agree with 99% of the things you say, but not here. Offside is a close call a lot of the time. The player could be just off but thought he was on, makes the signal he thought so and gets yellow carded for just bein wrong rather than trying to influence things. Same with a 50/50 foul that could be given either way. Its just nit picking if it got to this but i can sorta see where your coming from. im of the opinion that we get two extra officials, one beside each of the goals on the oposite side to the linesman and video technology with 3 uses of this given to the two teams to be used whenever they see fit, but only once the ball has gone out of play.

  5. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear in this. For the punishment of that behaviour I don’t mean that the ref should give a yellow card on the field. I mean that there will be two types of yellow card. The one given on the field and a new type of yellow card : the one given off the field. The one given off the field during the week will be just added on to the total number of yellow cards you get on the field. This could have as a result that you get a ban faster.

    And thank God, I found something that some of you don’t agree with me. 😉

  6. I think this is a grey area because what is and what isn’t a reaction is difficult to define. Then we also have to consider whether it is or isn’t acceptable.

    I think running towards the assistant referee should definitely be a bookable offence. Also talking back to the referee for over 5-6 seconds should be an offence if the ref has said go away. Sometimes the ref feels its ok to talk and in those cases you can’t really punish the players.

    I think football needs a green card like in hockey. Which doesn’t punish but recognizes an infringement. something like a mini yellow card. Also the yellow card should have a harsher penalty, with something like the sin-bin involved. People will not waste time if they knew that a yellow card could mean they go out for 2-3 mins or so. It would also be a fair punishment for professional fouls because it gives the opponent some immediate advantage.

    Of course, this can lead to a further controversial moments but we all live on faith after all! The refs aren’t bent and the system will work out over time.

    This is a complex issue and I’ve a lot of thoughts on it, need to organize them better. Thanks Walter for a thought provoking piece.

  7. Hey Tony I am sorry for writing your name incorrectly, my name is Stuart. I use stubby as it was my nick name at secondary modern school. Wow thtas going back some.

    Hiddink could do it.

  8. Walter this sounds interesting. If a player protests a decision on the field of play, whether the decision is correct or not, they can be punished if their protest is, “over the top” or a player will be punished for protesting a correct decision. However, I think the ref should be punished if they make a blatant error. For example giving a yellow card to the wrong player, or not following the rules of the game correctly like the ref in the Porto game. There should be a yellow card given behind the scene for ref and if they accumulate too many than there should be an adequate punishment for them like a fine or a demotion.
    If the system can be used for both players and officials than I think it could work.

    What do you think?

  9. Nice and thought provoking post Walter .The players must behave themselves at all times and any challenge to the officals authority should be dealt with on the pitch .If the officals missed an incident,
    then it can be dealt afterwards by a panel comprising the match officals and a fifth offical [ala cricket ]sitting before a tv screen
    or in a vantage position.
    It would take only a few minutes and can be done at the end of each half and the culprit informed immediately and appropirate action taken.
    Similiarly any mistakes by the officals can be pointed out and rectifed if possible or be informed by them to the affected player so as to pacify them and prevent any further unwanted reactions.

  10. Canadian Gooner, I agree with you that the ref also should be open for punishment when he makes a mess of it.

    But I will write that down in an article and then we can punish the refs or see if we can find a system to punish them.

    Like I said, it should come from both sides.

  11. nice article Walter. The video evidence argument has been brushed under the carpet by UEFA and FIFa for years on the grounds that it would slow down the game far too much.

    I believe however that this argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If only penalty shouts and Red card decisions were referred to the video evidence booth, it would in all likelihood speed up games as there is usually several minutes of player protest involved whenever these incidents come up.
    How many times have we seen a player that is red-carded stay to plead his case which holds up the game?
    How many times do we see players surrounding the referee because a penalty decision is given or not given.
    Video decisions made in these incidents would not only speed up the game but would add credibility to the sport in general.

    FIFA say that any new implimentations would have to be workable across the whole spectrum of the game (another convenient excuse to not do it).
    Common sense dictates that new ideas should be tested at the top end of any sport and this is demonstrated successfully over and over again in sports like Formula 1 racing and Rugby.

    If FIFA want everything uniform across the sport they should review their own much used footage of kids playing in streets and scrub fields without referees, goalposts or even shoes.

    The reason for this standard hipocracy is simple.

    The advent of this type of technology would make fixing the outcomes of football matches almost impossible.

  12. While i’m all for players not stiffling their emotions on field….. i don’t think anybody can honestly say that the players havn’t, more often than not, crossed the line!! by leaps & bounds, if i might add!
    I mean it is disgraceful what the players r allowed to get away with when dealing with officials during a match. And its not just limited to that! The kind of stuff that passes off as gamesmanship! Faking injuries to get players booked…. rolling abt as if u’v broken ur leg & then getiing up once the game has been stopped!!
    It is high time that all associations took steps to try & curb this problem. How can abusing officials & cheating to try & win decisions, in ur favour, be good for the game!
    There is no quick fire rememdy to any of it….the rot has set in over a period of time & can only be eradicated over a period of time!
    The way fwd is in one step at a time. The suggestions i’m making may not be entirely foolproof, but if applied over a period of time could definitely make a diff!
    Lets start with video evidence. Fine, u don’t want to slow down the game. How abt a match commissioner who reviews the game after(or while) it has been played. Haul up players stepping out of bounds. Have players know what is & what is not acceptable when dealing with the officials. Swearing & throwing abuses at them is hardly justifiable as a show of emotions! Do the same thing with tackles!
    Let it sink into the players that just because the ref hasn’t spotted them means that they’ve gotten away with it. Hand out warnings/cards/suspensions in such instances after the match. Once players start missing matches because of stuff they did & got caught for on tv, the clubs themselves would come down on them to ensure those acts r not repeated.
    As for wasting time by faking injuries…u can have a rule wherein only the captain of each side can request the referee to stop a game for an injured player. And then once the player is carried off let him have to wait for 5 or 7 mins before he can rejoin the game! I mean if he’s so badly hurt that he needs the game stopped, cannot make it to the touch lune on his own for treatment but requires to be stretchered off, he might as well as get proper treatment while the game continues!
    Once players stop faking injuries because of lost game time & stop trying to intimidate the officials by throwing their arms all over the place & yelling & screaming at them, stop faking fouls, stop committing fouls on the sly(read shirt pulling in crowded boxes, etc) ‘coz big brother is always watching…. u’ll certainly see the ref’s job on the ground made so much easier!!

  13. I know not many around would agree to what i have to say in the post above….but it is high time we started to clean up the beautiful game.
    And the only thing that can do so is strong deterent!! I’ll just highlight an example….
    Slow over rates in the game of cricket have now become the norm. Paltry fine & insignificant slaps on the wristst of the erring skippers hardly helped the cause.
    This IPL Tournament, however, was slightly different!! Why?? Cause the fine for a 1st time offence was 20,000 US Dollars!! At first i thought i had read it wrong or that it was a misprint in the papers….but no!! It was to be 40,000 USD for the 2nd instance & 60,000USD the 3rd time along with a one match suspension!
    And u could actually see the teams making an effort, bowlers running back to their mark to finish their overs in time!!

    The point i’m trying to make here is if u have a strong enough penalty in place, players would try their utmost best to live within the laws!! I mean it would be stupid then for a Rooney or a Fabregas to do a Sergio Busquets (in the Barca/Inter clash). Not if he were facing a 3-5 match ban for his “Little Skit” based on video evidence taken into account after the match.
    People would argue that it wouldn’t stop Motta still missing the rest of that match! i agree, it wouldn’t. But then again maybe after a lenthy susupension Sergio Busquets (& his club) wouldn’t want to have the act repeated!

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