By Jack Cutler
Last month, it was announced that Gianni Infantino had succeeded fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter as president of world football’s governing body, Fifa.
The Uefa secretary general polled 115 votes, 27 more than closest rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa.
This could mark a huge change for Fifa and its recent controversial and corrupt nature. Infantino said: “I will work tirelessly to bring football back to Fifa and Fifa back to football…This is what we want to do.”
On Saturday 5th March, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) had its 130th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Cardiff. The meeting was held at the St David’s Hotel and was chaired by the President of the Football Association of Wales, David Griffiths.
The decision they came to was that a trial of the use of video assistant referees for “game-changing decisions” in football will begin no later than the 2017-18 season. Technology would only be applied to key incidents concerning goals, red cards, mistaken identities and penalties. The IFAB says it had interest in hosting live trials from 12 national associations and one confederation.
In the past, Fifa have been reluctant to approve such trials because of Sepp Blatter’s opinions. For example, the use of goal line technology in football, which has most certainly had a positive impact on the game.
Think back to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, England were trailing 2-1 to Germany when Frank Lampard hit a delightful lob shot over Manuel Neuer. Everyone knew at the time that the ball clearly crossed the line after it hit the bar and bounced down into the goal, only for the grateful Neuer to grasp the ball and continue play as normal. England went on to lose the game 4-1.
Now, thanks to goal line technology, this is no longer an issue. With a simple glance at their watch, referees can tell whether or not it is a goal. This was demonstrated in the gripping North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, when one of Harry Kane’s shots appeared to cross the line, only for the technology to prove that it did not.
Without it, the decision would have been a lot harder for the referee and would have potentially caused a lot of controversy. If this had been the case in 2010 at the World Cup, going in at 2-2 at half time against Germany, perhaps England could have progressed further. We will never know…
The North London derby is extremely relevant to this issue for another reason, as Francis Coquelin was sent off for a second yellow card after fouling Kane. Then, as the game progressed, it appeared Eric Dier would see the same fate, yet referee Michael Oliver chose not to show the red card.
This was debated throughout the weekend, with Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, pointing out that he believed Dier should have also seen red. Surely with video technology, Arsenal could just appeal.
The referee would consult his fourth official and watch the decision back, before deciding whether or not to give Dier his marching orders. However, the use of video technology for key decisions seems a much more complicated issue than goal line technology.
Another example, from the recent Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool, is whether or not Christian Benteke of Liverpool dived to win his team a penalty in the dying stages of the game, which was tied at 1-1 at the time.
Personally, if a man six foot, three inches tall falls over the way he did after a touch to his right foot from the knee of Damien Delaney then I seriously need to rethink how I play football. It appears that ‘going down after you feel contact’ is the polite way of saying ‘he cheated and dived but got away with it’.
Perhaps with video technology this highly contentious issue could have been resolved within a few minutes. This could also result in the implementation of an appeal system similar to that of tennis and cricket.
If this was to materialise, teams would have to decide whether or not to use the appeal. Subsequently, the officials would need to consult and come to a decision on the issue.
This, however, then brings up the consideration of whether or not the time taken to decide on the issue should be added on to the injury time period once 90 minutes is up. In saying this, it appears an extremely efficient system in rugby, tennis and cricket.
In the latter two, a decision is made almost instantaneously, much like goal line technology in football. Meanwhile, use of video refereeing was introduced to rugby union in 2001.
The decision to call on the video referee, now referred to as the ‘Television Match Official’ (TMO), is made by the main referee. The call is then made by the replay referee, who takes his place in the stand of the host team or, more often, in the television broadcast vans outside the stadium.
They either inform the pitch referee by radio link-up or the use of a big screen during televised matches. It is often argued, in football, that it would disrupt the flow or speed of the game and also frustrate players and fans.
However, in rugby it could be argued it adds to the tension, so why not the same for football? It also means decisions on red cards are decided there and then, not after hours of analysis by pundits and, occasionally, officials if a club decides to appeal a dismissal.
In saying this, though, if an incorrect decision was made with the technology, would that not infuriate fans, players and pundits even more? Would this removal of controversy ruin the sport that we love? Would we still have such passionate debates and discussions, without these shocking decisions?
Regarding the latter, yes, I really think we would. The likes of Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth are giving us plenty of talking points with their strong performances this season anyway.
So this begs the question, why is video technology not already in use in the beautiful game?