Video referees in football. Do we really need them?!

video referees
video referees

The controversy about the need to introduce video referees is a dispute of habit with the future that has already come.

This morning we had a dispute in the football today editorial office. Do we need a video referees in football? To me this question always seemed rhetorical (because of the obvious answer). As it turned out, different options exist too. Many of my colleagues believe that they are not needed. Or even more: video replay is evil.

In general, to protect the idea of introducing modern technologies is not that difficult. But, it’s hard not to slip into platitudes. Still, the arguments lie on the surface. But first we need to separate two different technologies so there will be no confusion.

There is a fixation system for the goal. It is necessary. And there is a video replay, which the referee can use to assess the controversial episode. This is necessary for moments like the fall of Luis Suarez in the penalty zone of «PSG”. It caused a penalty. There is a fundamental difference in the use and cost of these technologies. We can only hope that the introduction of video assistant referees (VARs) on a trial basis in next season’s FA Cup will prevent such incidents.

Video Assistant Referees vs. Goal Fixation System

Controversial goals do not happen very often. Establishment of a goal-fixing technology at one stadium costs hundreds of thousands of Euros. It may simply be too expensive for a poorer clubs. The price of one corrected mistake is too high for the financially troubled clubs to pay such expenses. With all the need for innovation, it is subject to objective difficulties. Although, this obstacle can be avoided in case you find an interested sponsor.

On the other hand, it’s inexpensive to interrupt the game for a few seconds to watch the video from several cameras. Just have to spend money on a laptop. It does not take long. Not as long as the “PSG” players tried to explain to Deniz Aytekin that there was no penalty. Another way is to include the brigade of arbitrators in the studio. They supposedly will monitor all episodes and prompt the main referee in real time. Such repetition will also help in determining the goal.

This will put an end to judicial scandals as an integral part of the game. We emotionally discuss the mistakes of referees, but in fact we are too used to them. Every week there are episodes in which wrong decisions determine the outcome of the game. But after the systematic introduction of video referees errors will become rare. Judicial scandals will simply disappear.

Stadium Corner
Stadium Corner

Every week there are episodes in which wrong decisions determine the outcome of the game. We are too used to it.

There are not so many technical reasons to oppose this. The use of video replay is less costly than fixing a goal. It is universal and available for any club. Therefore, opponents of video referees often appeal to emotional arguments

Less emotion

Actually, I agree with many opponents about the introduction of modern technologies in football. For example, with global messages like: life is unfair, full of mistakes, and football reflects these qualities. Or that mistakes made by arbitrators intervene with the phrase “human factor”.  It leads to the game of emotions. But thinking about football and how it’s today.

Try to list reasons why you like football. Remember everything: from yard derby with neighbor boys. To the penalties which Francesco Toldo performed in the Euro semifinals? The joy of the three times deserved victory of “Chelsea” in the Champions League. Remember the crown on the head of Claudio Ranieri after winning the Premier League. Try to describe your emotions when on May 26, 1999, late at night. You saw the face of the already-replaced Lothar Matthaus just after Solskjaer scored the second goal. You do like football for it. We all have personal reasons.

But what place among them holds the decision of Ovrebo to not to put a penalty for the foul of Abidal against Drogba? Or, maybe you prefer football for the unassigned penalty kick for Pike’s hand in the same match? Or at least Maradona’s hand, that is, forgive us, God.

Better leave mistakes to the players. And not to people with task to perform mechanical work

Yes, mistakes add to the game of emotions. Everything is like in life. But not all emotions are good. In life, the road accidents, for example, also cause emotions. Do you love road accidents? Are they worth to abandon the traffic lights that automate the movement of vehicles? Do they deprive us of romantic feelings and sentiments?

This comparison is not far-fetched. Football is not just a game. It is still a multi-billion dollar international business on which the careers of millions of people depend. Errors here are as expensive as in any other multibillion-dollar businesses. I repeat: the mistakes that affect the result, errors with the price of millions, happen every week. And they will not go anywhere in any case. But it is better to leave mistakes to those with brilliant insights, and passes, and saves, and blows and dribbling – to the Players. And the emotions caused by people, whose task from the very beginning were to perform mechanical work. Those emotions serve as a prototype of the machine. The place of these emotions belongs in the past exactly from the moment when technologies allowed us to avoid them.

Lissabon Stadium
Lissabon Stadium

Final Thoughts

Still this thread can’t escape banalities. It’s all too simple. Football, like any popular phenomenon, is developing. Once, there was no TV.  There was only one view — from the stadium. There was no players’ recovery in the cryogenic chamber. The players’ careers were over at 30. Once, the coaches did not have any advanced statistics – only chips on the board. Once, the referees could not use video technologies to understand the difficult episodes. Now all this is possible. But for some reason we use everything except the last one.

Will we move forward in football today? Will we implement Video Referees? I think you know the answer already.


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