Oct 24, 2010

Video Technology simply isn’t feasible

By Jake Harrison

Association football has been a way of life since it took a formal bow in a London tavern in 1863. The debates, discussions and arguments still rumble on to this day and, as part of the modern game, the topic that gets all football fans talking is video technology.

Dodgy offside decisions, ridiculous handball judgements and inconsistent stances on tackling are all common problems in the game today. Fans never shy away from giving their opinion on referees, wading in with so-called solutions to the before-mentioned issues.

Callers to football phone-ins frequently complain about refereeing decisions that they have seen during that day. The call for video technology has come from many different corners of the game, with fans, ex-referees, and even former players giving their view. What they don’t seem to realise, though, is that there are a lot of problems with implementing video technology into football.

FIFA have long been chastised for their reluctance to introduce video-aid for match officials, although they are now looking at a system which will tell the referee whether the ball has crossed the line “within a second”.

FIFA are correct in their attitude, on this occasion. They are right to display caution when the topic of video technology is brought up. The governing body have said that video replays that would help the referees would be time-consuming. However, a team celebrating a dubious goal or a group of players surrounding and abusing the referee after a contentious decision takes a lot longer than the time it would take for a technologically-aided decision to be fed through to the match official.

The real problem with video technology is the cost. It is estimated that to cover a match sufficiently, i.e. for enough evidence to analyse a decision, the coverage provider requires twenty cameras and video gear. On top of that, those twenty cameras require twenty cameramen to work the apparatus. The equipment itself is extremely expensive and so, with camera technicians and spare cameras also added into the equation just in case, as well as the viewing station where all the feeds are sent, the price of covering one match would be pretty steep.

In light of that, to cover all ten Premier League games for the whole season would be a problem. However, if you’re going to bring the video technology rule into football it needs to, at least, be implemented into the top four divisions (i.e. down to League Two). Every country who plays under FIFA would also require this rule for their leagues, providing more cost. This would, of course, anger some fans of clubs in the lower divisions, and rightly so.

But that is why extensive use of video technology is not going to work in football. The price of providing adequate coverage for all the ninety-two clubs currently in the Football League would be staggering, never mind those below that.

Many have suggested a post-weekend review panel as an alternative, which would reassess any contentious decisions that clubs decide to contest. The panel could consist of three people (much like the yellow/red card appeal system which is already in place) who sit down on a weekday and make the final decisions. Clearly there would have to be a different panel for each league as, otherwise, there would be too much of a burden on those three chosen people, who could be an ex-player, a former referee and a past manager; three individuals who have actually had some involvement in the game, unlike most FIFA officials who control the laws of the game.

Clearly, video technology would be of big help to referees and, while the idea of the aid undermining referees may be somewhat true, the modern game of football, in the contemporary world that we live in, cannot be kept behind other sports in technological advancement.

In a sport where mere relegation can see teams go bankrupt and a dodgy penalty decision can mean the loss of a cup final, some form of video technology is needed. Whether it’s in-game or not, football is crying out for clarity and consistency in decisions. While this is all theoretically good, in practise the money that would be needed would be astronomical.

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Bluenine said...


Nice article.

Personably, I am in favour of selective use of video technology... only for the top competitions like World Cup & CL... and perhaps it could be left to national FA's whether they want to use it for their national leagues.

Also, perhaps a tennis style challenge system can be used to ensure there are not too many stoppages... if each team gets two challenges per game, that should take care of over 90% of major mistakes without slowing wdown the game in any significant way. In fact, it could make the game more interesting, like in Tennis & Cricket. Like you mentioned, big incidents cause delays anyways...

Also, video tech could be allowed only to contest a pre-defined set of decisions, like penalty calls or goal line clearances... that would ensure we don't dumb down the referees either.

Jim said...

No thanks. Let's find a way of attracting better referees instead. Oh, and draconian punishments for cheats of every type. I'm sick of seeing shirt-pulling and holding being described as strong defending. It isn't. It's fouling and getting away with it - and it's spoiling the game. Red cards for diving; penalties for holding at set-pieces etc - that's make a REAL difference.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jim. Shirt-pulling really annoys me and diving too. Bluenine, I'm not personally a fan of your idea, mainly because I'd be pretty annoyed if I was a fan of a "lower" team (which I'm not, but hypothetically..).

Thanks for the comments.

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