Shay Given has our sympathy but FIFA and UEFA need to offer more
The failure of the officials to spot Thierry Henry’s handball has condemned Shay Given and his teammates to miss out on the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Will this high profile case finally provoke FIFA and UEFA into using video replays? We shouldn’t hold our breath.
While the tidal wave of blame has engulfed Thierry Henry and the match officials, shouldn’t it also be fallingÃ‚Â on the game’s governors for their failure to embrace technology years ago. Rugby did it with video replays of tries. Cricket did it with Hawkeye. Why can’t football let match officials have access to the same technology as a Sky pundit?
Major matches are now played in front of multiple cameras and have been for years. Everyone at home sees all the angles. In vital games like the one on Wednesday, big decisions like this are crucial and the idea that a pause in the action would reduce the flow of the game is spurious. Play had stopped already.
No human can be expected to see everything, so by refusing them access to the replays, do FIFA and UEFA expect their officials to be super-human? Making them fitter won’t give them multiple viewing angles, any more than testing their eyesight will enable them to see incidents in slow motion.
Every week on Match Of The Day we see managers complaining, while the assorted pundits use technology to go over incidents which officials failed to call correctly. The referees get stripped of their credibility, when there could be an extra official at the match who’s able to make a quick call based on replays – just as they do in Six Nations rugby.
By failing to act, FIFA and UEFA are expecting officials to compete with the technology of the 21st Century by sending them out with that from the 19th Century.
The failure of the games governors to utilise technology has already cost City a prestigious draw at Old Trafford this season. Having timekeeping entrusted to the referee on the pitch, who has enough on his plate keeping up with the action, is ludicrous.
As was pointed out in the aftermath of that match, having an independent timekeeper, as they do in rugby league, could spare us the ridiculous sight of managers furiously pointing at their watches in an attempt to influence the referee.
The time remaining can be shown on a screen, with the clock stopped for breaks in play such as sustitutions. One criticism of a hooter signalling full-time is that it might go off with the ball travelling into the net. Well, the hooter could signal that the match is over when the ball next goes out of play.
There is a hypocrisy from those in the media who say they don’t want to be talking about refereeing decisions. They thrive on moments of controversy and supposed injustice as it sells newspapers and pulls in viewers or callers, as a few minutes spent listening to a post match phone-in will amply demonstrate.
Our best officials have become completely undermined and are an easy target for managers and players looking to excuse their own failings.
“Decisions even themselves out over the course of a season” is one of the more ridiculous excuses bandied about for doing nothing. Maybe in a league campaign they do, but not in a knock-out competition. One bad decision there and you’re out.
The only thing we can be sure of is that until FIFA and UEFA allow match officials access to the same technology as the rest of us, then incidents like the one we saw in Paris will continue to happen.