Football Remains Firmly Stuck in the Past

In an age where football has become big business, and there is ever more pressure on referees in big games, this weekend highlights why we need technology in the beautiful game.

Football Remains Firmly Stuck in the Past

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March 24th, 2014

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In what was supposed to be a marvellous occasion for Arsene Wenger in his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal, not even a 6-0 thumping by a rampant Chelsea grabbed the headlines. Rather, a case of mistaken identity has rocked the footballing world, throwing into question the quality of our referees.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did what Wojciech Szczesny seemingly couldn’t in flinging himself to his left, tipping an Eden Hazard shot around the post. A wonderful save, I’m sure you’ll agree, except the Ox wasn’t in goal and so had to go. Or so we thought. Referee Andre Marriner proceeded to send off Kieron Gibbs, much to the protest of Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Hazard tucked away the penalty. It seems then, that Marriner had sent off the wrong man in a case of mistaken identity.

Things didn’t get much better in sunny Spain either. El Clasico, the biggest match in the Spanish footballing calendar, was marred by three dubious penalties including Real Madrid’s which was given for a foul clearly committed outside the area. Barcelona ran out eventual 4-3 winners in a thrilling match, but Real Madrid may well feel a bit robbed.

Once again, these decisions throw up the debate of whether technology should be used in football, much like it is in Rugby. The Germans certainly don’t think so, with the Bundesliga recently voting against the goal line technology used in the Premier League. What I can’t understand is why, when it’s been shown to work quickly and efficiently in England, and helps protect the referees from making mistakes.

In a world where big money rides on the success or failure of a team, there is certainly more pressure on referees than ever to get things right. We need to protect our referees, otherwise we won’t have any left. I once refereed a five-a-side tournament at a local school fete, and even then the level of abuse I received from both vehemently angry seven-year olds and their parents on the side-lines was akin to that of the Football Factory movie – in fact it made Danny Dyer look like a saint. Just imagine the pressure of refereeing the upcoming Manchester Derby!

I’m quite sure that in the furore that followed Kieron Oxlade-Gibbs’ sending off, a 5th referee could quickly check a now readily-available TV replay, inform the referee of the correct decision and there would be no arguments; no surrounding the ref. No abusive language from players. No questions asked.

In a world where we have all the technology available, I still find it baffling we don’t use it. I don’t buy the ‘it’s what makes football, football’ excuse, as mistakes cause more hassle than they’re worth. I can’t bear to hear another Premier League manager explain to Gary Lineker on a Saturday evening about how his team was robbed of three points because of Andre Marriner sending off the wrong player, and anything that gives Alan Hansen less to talk about is okay in my book.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our referees, they’re as human as us and make mistakes too. If you don’t want these mistakes to happen, let’s just nip it in the bud and bring football into the 21st century.

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