The 11th minute of the 2017 EFL Final will be remembered as the moment football changed forever.
It’s now hard to imagine a time when football was without goal line technology (GLT). The last few years have proven many things; the fact Luis Suarez randomly bites opposing players without warning, that England are a million miles away from winning a major tournament, underdogs can win the Premier League, and most importantly, that there is room within the game for technology.
With GLT being a huge success, it must once and for all convince the doubters that video technology will not ruin the game. In July 2010 English hearts were broken when Frank Lampard’s perfectly good goal wasn’t awarded, but without knowing it then, football was to change forever. This incident was the moment that Sepp Blatter re-opened discussions concerning the use of GLT, and how happy are we they decided to do that. Some moments, (Lampard’s goal against Germany not being the case), are impossible to call. Within a split second, with the world watching, officials were asked to make incredibly difficult decisions. In some cases a millimetre being the difference between the right or wrong outcome.
Before email, we sent letters and used carrier pigeons. Without SatNavs, we had to use a map. Looking back, how on earth did assistant referees make decisions, whilst standing thirty yards away, with players in their line of vision? Thank God for Goal Line Technology. Which brings me onto the subject of video technology within open play.
Compared to other sports, football seems to be lagging behind when it comes to technology to assist with helping the referee make the correct decision. After over a decade of debating whether it would benefit the game, the answer is now abundantly clear. Benefit. Goal line technology works and that is a fact, and I’m sure ‘video refereeing’ would have the same positive affect as well. Like the incident that opened Sepp Blatter’s eyes to GLT, I also had a moment where I felt video technology is a must.
It’s nearing the end of the EFL final. It’s 2 -2. Southampton are pushing on to victory. Just as you think the footballing Gods are going to rectify the 11th minute howler (when Manolo Gabbiadini’s goal was wrongfully disallowed) by the linesman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic proves once again, he’s more powerful than the footballing Gods and breaks Southampton’s hearts. I couldn’t believe the decision that was made on the 11th minute. To rule out Gabbiadini’s goal and give Southampton the start they were dreaming of. It wasn’t even a close decision.
Before you ask, no, I’m not a Southampton fan and nor do I care whether Southampton or Manchester United won the cup. Part of my anger comes from knowing how much Jose Mourinho would have sulked and blamed referees if this had happened to his team. Whereas Southampton manager Claude Puel was dignified and respectful of the decision – what a gent – I know I would have thrown all my toys out of the pram. But most of my anger was from the disbelief that we are still allowing clear goals to be disallowed in such crucial moments. This incident wouldn’t have even been a talking point if we had already introduced video technology. Who knows? Southampton’s 30 year wait for silverware (if you don’t include the football league trophy) could have ended if FIFA just accepted the inevitable and introduced video refereeing.
I was happy to see Matt Le Tissier’s emotions at half time in the studio, because I felt the same. Is it because Southampton are the underdogs and the smaller team? Do we hate it when there’s an injustice to a team like that? If that’s the case; I felt it. It seems the rub of the green favours the bigger clubs during these David and Goliath contests. It’s ridiculous that massive mistakes like this are still happening at the highest level. Leicester City winger Marc Albrighton’s tackle on Antoine Greizmann in the quarter final of the Champions League that was clearly outside the penalty area, resulted in the referee awarding a penalty. One which Greizmann comfortably slots away. I mean this is the quarter finals of the Champions League!! Leicester’s probably only opportunity to play in the competition and their dreams are snatched away because of a bad refereeing decision. One that could have easily been rectified with the use of video technology.
After this incident and when Leicester were unable to over-turn the deficit from the away leg in Madrid, I started to think what the footballing God’s had planned. If only video technology had been introduced into the game decades ago…
-Leicester could have won the 2017 Champions League.
-Ireland could have gone on to win the 2010 World Cup if Thierry Henry’s handball hadn’t gone unnoticed.
-England could have won the 1986 World Cup, because for sure video technology would have spotted the 5ft 5in Argentinian punch the ball into the goal.
-Atletico Madrid may have won the 2012 Champions League, instead of their bitter rivals Real Madrid.
-One of the many clear penalties could have been awarded during the Chelsea vs Barcelona Champions League semi final at Stamford Bridge in 2008/09. (This particular game remains at the fore front of my footballing brain. It still frustrates me even now typing these words.)
All these moments have resulted in hours of debates, they have brought jubilation as well as heart break and even the most historic moments in football. A couple of years ago I would have firmly stood in the ‘no video technology in football’ camp, as I felt refereeing mistakes are all part of the game, whether it’s for or against your team. That there’s something about controversy, and human error that makes it the ‘beautiful’ game. But as the seasons roll by, I find myself becoming annoyed and frustrated by bad decisions having a major influence in games.
I watched the Wales vs England Six Nations match a week or so before the EFL final, and a player asked the referee to check with the video referee. Even though the referee said there was no need, he still did it. This way there is never any doubt left in anyone’s mind, and it makes the result beyond fair. If this mindset is applied to football, it would cut out a lot of discrepancies, needless to say unnecessary moaning from Mourinho, and we can all get on with playing the game.
A mix between the way rugby and tennis use video technology is the way forward. Football is a different sport with a different speed and different moments to question – however watching the EFL final has made it abundantly clear it should be introduced. Imagine a world where the captain of the team can respectfully ask the ref to challenge the decision? Gabbiadini’s day could have ended very differently – taking home the match ball, and maybe even a winner’s medal.
A POSSIBLE FUTURE – HOW COULD IT WORK?
Now I have thought long and hard about this, and how football differs to most sports in relation to the action and the decisions referees have to make in a split second. Of course we can’t have every offside being challenged, it would ruin the flow of the game. Plus when the assistant referee raises the flag, the referee would have to allow play to continue incase the player went on to score. If the play was stopped because the flag was raised and the referee is asked to review the decision and it is clear that the player is in fact onside then how do they rectify that? It’s even more confusing trying to explain it. The only way I can see it working is as follows;
Two challenges for each team. Just like in tennis – if Davis (Southampton’s captain in the EFL final) challenged the linesman’s decision and the video replay showed the goal should stand, Southampton would still have two challenges remaining to use during the game, and they are awarded the goal. Simple. With only having two challenges per match players would restrain from using challenges unnecessarily, as using it willy-nilly might result in them not having the opportunity to use it later in the game when needed.
I understand people will say that individual mistakes by officials is all part of the game and drama of this beautiful sport. What else would pundits talk about? Ex-pros are making a living talking about refereeing mistakes. I would have agreed with this before goal line technology was introduced. However it is so clear that it has had a positive effect on the game, it should be used in all aspects of football. Not only will it avoid this type of circumstance in terms of results, but it also takes pressure off referees. A decision can be rectified in the moment – but once that moment has passed, it’s in the history books for good. One referee’s bad decision will stay with him forever. Why are FIFA dragging their heels? Are they that old school? You only have to watch one game of Rugby to see that it works! If my mum can use an iPhone, football can use video technology.
UEFA are happy to employ two more fifth officials to stand by the goal with sticks doing sod all. BT sport can pay Howard Webb to sit in a small room with a tv screen, just to answer a few pointless questions when an incident happens…so why can’t there be a fifth official doing exactly the same thing? Who is in communication with the ref, during a live match when called upon. Surely it’s as simple as that? There is speculation about it being used next year during the FA Cup and possibly at the World Cup, so fingers crossed video technology is introduced sooner rather than later.