Why Football Must Follow Rugby’s Lead On Officiating

A guest post from Alex Goodchild

It has been one sporting feast of a weekend, filled with drama and excitement. Despite the Rugby World Cup having just kicked off in London, the Premier League refused to be overshadowed, offering such spectacles as the next instalment in Wenger’s rivalry with Mourinho and Manchester City’s home clash against a West Ham team that had already defeated both the Gunners and Liverpool on the road. Sadly, it was also a weekend marred by controversy, with much media focus on unpleasant scenes erupting from the 17th hole of the Solheim Cup and ugly Diego’s ugly behaviour spoiling Arsenal’s London derby. With the World Cup in full swing, it’s time football learned from rugby’s refereeing example.

In recent years, the sense of enmity between London’s leading clubs has been so vitriolic as to result in a regrettable number of unsavoury incidents, exceeding what can be deemed acceptable sporting conduct. Two seasons ago it was a disgraceful personal barb from Chelsea’s manager, last year it was a reckless tackle from Gary Cahill, which prompted in a touchline row between ‘Le Prof’ and the Portuguese One. This year, the flashpoint centred on Diego Costa. A game where both sides were short of confidence and both very even as half time approached was plunged into chaos after the violent conduct of Costa sparked the dismissal of Laurent Koscielny’s team mate Gabriel.It was an incident that drastically affected the course of the game and almost inevitably consigned Arsenal to defeat.

It should be clear that one can have no complaints with Gabriel’s sending off itself; though the manner in which he raced to defend his teammate, who was struck on the face a number of times before being head-butted, was admirable, the Brazilian’s subsequent behaviour was petulant and deserving of the red card. Yet where one suspects that Arsenal fans feel truly aggrieved is how Costa was allowed to stay on the pitch in the first place. His actions were those of a forward frustrated at being tamed by an imperious partnership and who clearly has a history of violent conduct. It is excruciatingly unjust that the Spaniard was not sent off in a match that was won ultimately by Chelsea’s superior numbers and surprising that not one official caught sight of such conspicuously violent behaviour. Perhaps this is where football needs to change, where it ought to take a leaf out of rugby’s book on reviewing play.

The concept of live video technology is almost as polarising in rugby as it is in football. Some herald it, whereas other more traditional commentators, such as former England internationals, Brian Moore and Stuart Barnes see issues with it. For those of the conviction that consulting a video referee in football to review play would slow the sport to the speed of cricket, there was good ammunition from Friday night’s opener between England and Fiji. Officials deliberated incessantly over replays that were already conclusive, pondering over every different angle, such as whether or not the Fijian scrum half had grounded the ball properly to score a try. In fact, by Telegraph Sport estimates, the game was delayed by as much as ten minutes as a result of such indecisiveness. Yet crucially no pundit would contest the need for video technology. Each decision taken by the referee, however long it took, was the correct one, whether it was sending a Fijian player to the stands for ten minutes for foul play or the decision to award England a vital bonus point-sealing try at the death. The best use of the referee’s most useful tool was by Wayne Barnes in the fixture between Argentina and New Zealand, where he was able to seamlessly integrate the video referee into the game’s proceedings, which allowed for the correct decisions to be made within a highly efficient timescale.

Contrary to Garth Crooks’ claim that Mike Dean seeks to be the centre of attention, he is in reality a rather proficient referee. Granted, he has made some real blunders when arbitrating Arsenal, but he has improved greatly and is nowhere near as confounding or contentious as Anthony Taylor. Dean was unable to spot Costa’s viciousness and acted only according to what he could see. Rather, it is exasperating that he was not afforded the technology to simply consult the footage and make the right call in a sport where even goal line technology exists. It is damning of the sport’s risibly archaic method of officiating when a fan watching a pixelated stream on his computer has the insight of a television replay when the game’s man in the middle, with the most power to influence, is left blind. If video technology were introduced to the game, there were be no hiding for so-called wind up merchants like Diego Costa and the foul play he embodies and no more frustrating ‘I didn’t see it’ protestations from referees.Arsène Wenger, one of the game’s great visionaries, recently commented that he was ‘convinced that video technology will soon come into football.’ Let us hope, in the interest of fairness in our beloved game, that he is right.

32 comments on “Why Football Must Follow Rugby’s Lead On Officiating

  1. Amen to that Alex – a multi billion £ sport that allows important errors to take place on which contests turn and are decided, when the option is there through technology that error, as far as is possible, can be erased.

    I do not think it would be as easy to introduce to football as it is to rugby as the egg rolling game is a more stop/start contest anyway with choreographed scrums and line-outs. However there was (or is still) an experiment still going on in Dutch youth football to try out video refereeing. Any news on that ?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For any that are interested tickets on offer through Ticket Exchange for the Bayern game this afternoon

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post. I am certainly on the “for” side of the voting re video technology. I have little doubt that it will be in use at some time in the relatively near future for more than just goal-line decisions.

    Andrew, I assume you therefore have a Bayern ticket? You aiming for the George that night?


  4. I have and I will Steve !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Alex
    Video Technology – Yes.
    Mike Dean – No.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think you may be largely preaching to the choir here Alex (though not everyone will be pro-tech) – but a decent article, nonetheless.

    I think the Dutch continue to experiment (or press for permission to do so from UEFA) and I think there is an experiment starting up in the US soon – over to our USA correspondent Kelly for news?

    The chief concern with video technology (VT) is the potential for hold ups and the ruination of a game that has traditionally ebbed and flowed without interruption. Except, of course, there are constant interruptions and currently no guarantee that breaks in the game are currently resolved with ‘correct’ decisions having been reached.

    Personally I’d love to see a video ref charged with monitoring offside in order to free up the two linesman to act as 2nd and 3rd referees (most likely still from the touchline). With three pairs of eyes upon the game (rather than monitoring offside), the chances are that with a competent ref, the Costas of the world will find it harder to operate their unique brand of sportsmanship. The VT ref could also be consulted for other contentious decisions by the on-pitch ref and the captain of each side could have two video appeals per half, similar to cricket/tennis. At all times, the game would be played to the whistle and any player foolish enough to attempt to preempt appeals to the VT ref would soon learn not to.

    The principal driver of objections to VT in reality is fear.

    But now that specialists in conning the referee are making a good living out of the game, the greater fear surely lies in not being able to root these out cheats?


  7. The other thing I would like to see brought in from rugby is REALLY LONG BANS for players who seriously injure other professionals.

    In rugby you can get a eight or 12 or 16 week ban for a variety of offences. If you send someone home in plaster in a football match ad they miss the rest of the season, the worst you can get is a three game ban.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Oh well that is me stunned !

    And its only Tuesday


  9. In rugby this is considered a mere scratch


  10. Gabriel’s 3 match ban is overturned!
    FA admit Dean is a pillock.

    However his charge of improper conduct still stands – so expect 2 games for that.

    Liked by 2 people

    Arsène Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup third-round tie against Tottenham Hotspur:

    on the team news…
    Francis Coquelin will be out and we have no major problems for anybody else. It should be a similar squad.

    on Coquelin…
    His knee is swollen and he is being assessed but we hope it is just a short-term problem

    on Per Mertesacker…
    He is available for selection, yes.

    on if youngsters could feature…
    Alex Iwobi. I want to keep the squad together. We go game by game so I will make changes, for sure. How many? I’ve not decided yet. It will be quite an experienced squad with one or two younger players.

    on Iwobi…
    He is in and out a little bit because we travel a lot. He is doing well.
    Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150922/team-news-coquelin-per-and-iwobi#7bo8Qd1PzpdoxqZD.99

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If you can apply video replay tech plus a bit of Hawkeye to the eccentric LBW rule in cricket whilst retaining the fine margins of calls with or to the on-field officials judgment (a mechanism to assist them), then you can apply it to anything!

    The use of replays on LBWs has only increased people’s admiration for the officials in cricket. Standing there five days in a row in the baking heat trying to judge the finest of margins from twenty two yards whilst paying attention to numerous other variables…yes they certainly deserve the help and the respect.


  13. surely now that Gabriel’s sending off has been overturned the FA have to drop the misconduct charge, seeing as said charge is related to his behavior after the now defunct red card.


  14. Eduardo: the misconduct charge still has to stand, particularly in the light of the blog we’re responding to. To bring rugby officiating levels of respect to football means exactly that, respecting the official’s decision without on pitch questioning is where it all stems from. As difficult as that might sound in the shadow of current goings on.


  15. Sam ‏@samuelJayC 23m23 minutes ago
    Arsenal used TV coverage from ESPN Brazil showing that Gabriel did not touch Costa. #afc


  16. Llew ‏@BundesLlew 2h2 hours ago
    Officials admit to not seeing Gabriel’s flick, which makes the sending off completely absurd and absolutely unacceptable. Dean is corrupt.


  17. Costa contesting his charge of “alleged violent conduct”


  18. I strongly resisted video technology for a long time. It drove me nuts hearing the likes of Redknapp describe it as thought it would be easy as pie to implement it.

    I thought, and still think, it would be phenomenally difficult to integrate it into football, a sport whose appeal is massively dependant on a fast flow with short interruptions (rewatch the last 15 minutes of West ham game if you doubt this. We couldn’t get going, and the game was agonisingly disjointed, because Atkinson was apparently happy to let West Ham take between 20 seconds and close to a minute for throws, goal kicks,corners and free kicks. It damn near killed our slim hopes and made for a rubbish spectacle for anyone who wan’t loving our defeat).

    Then, there is the truth that replays would not settle everything. There’d be a new layer of controversy, arguably an even worse one, if they looked at something apparently clear, and still made the wrong decision. A distinct possibility, or rather inevitability.

    Depending on how it was implemented, yet another controversial aspect would be that much/ all of the time we would surely be reliant on the ref, or some other official, deciding when to use it. So, what’s this, the game is stopped when they’ve spotted your man doing something, but- oh no, the bastards!- at another point something is done to your team but they don’t stop it.

    Stretching it here, but there’s something even worse than that- you may not even know a wrong has been done- i.e if your man in the truck or on the sideline sees something punishable, but decides not to flag it. So you’d never even know you’d been screwed. (if you distrust officialdom and even our Sky overlords to the nth degree, and I’m afraid that’s me, this is another possibility). Remember, it is apparently thanks to footage which was broadcast in another country, not sky footage, which has helped clear Gabriel

    And yet…I’ve changed my mind. The incongruity of football standing so alone in comparison to these other sports which, thanks to their technology, are kicking football’s ass in terms of delivering the correct decisions and indeed justice, is too great.

    Truth be told,though, that is not my primary reason. The conviction of mine that pgmol are wrong ‘uns leads me to believe video technology considerably improves our chances of not being screwed.

    It also, from my perspective, explains the resistance to it and why it is not happening. The most powerful clubs are the ones with most influence and, around the world, Utd, Madrid, Barca,etc, tend to do quite well with the current system. More often than not, and despite all the ‘evens out’ talk, they come out well ahead over the season.

    If it can work, it will only be after a long long period of trial and error, which would undoubtedly involve a lot of controversy and f*** ups along the way. I really have reversed my position entirely though and would love to see that begin.

    Indeed it seems suspicious that there is any resistance at all to doing that much. You might say it can’t work for football, but it makes no sense- knowing how great it would be if it did work- not to try. Right away.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Good luck to Chelsea, eddy.
    That means he’ll be available for Chelsea’s league cup game, so the suspension will be 3 league games, perhaps 4.
    Chelsea sneaking out the news that Eva Carninero has been forced out of the club tonight. Think we wouldn’t notice?


  20. happy for Gabriel… cos he really did not deserve that….

    i see costa has a 3 match ban! does that start immediately or has to wait for appeal?


  21. chelsea has gotten 3 points from his antics… zooma was also involved somewhere so i guess they will take the rest of it on the chin


  22. The FA ‏@FA 42m42 minutes ago
    Diego Costa has been suspended for three matches after violent conduct charge found proven http://the-fa.com/RRNaY1


  23. Eva Caneiro, I am sure has a contract, which a Chelsea employee has abrogated unilaterally. IF,that employee has said, what is reported “filha da puta”, then Ms Caneiro would seem to have a proven case?

    Drogba, and now Costa.

    Mourinho, will not change his MO cheaply!


  24. SAF: “I got my revenge on Arsene couple of years later of missing out on Ramsey when Hodgson helped us snatch Smalling, away from Arsenal.”


  25. Haha eddy. Missing out on Ramsey and getting Smalling. Isn’t that what’s called “a double whammy”.


  26. Smalling is very good


  27. FK² ‏@fkhanage 40m40 minutes ago
    Sign Eva Carneiro as an additional club doctor even if only to find out how Chelsea have been getting away with performance enhancing.


    Arsène Wenger is likely to field an experienced side in Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup third-round clash at Tottenham.

    Arsenal last faced their rivals in the competition back in 2010, when a youthful side won 4-1 at White Hart Lane after extra-time.
    Wenger often uses the League Cup to give the club’s rising stars a chance, but he says that will change for the north London derby.
    It is an opportunity for Arsenal to win an important game and for the players who play for the club to defend our club and qualify

    “It will affect it because at the moment the youth-team players, many of whom are ready to play for us, are away on loan,” he told Arsenal Player.
    “The next players who have the talent are not completely ready to play at that level. With the difficulty of the opponent as well, you do not want to throw them into a game where they look out of place.
    “There are no fringe players [here], there is only a first-team squad. It is an opportunity for Arsenal to win an important game and for the players who play for the club to defend our club and qualify.
    “Apart from that, we played with the team in Zagreb and we didn’t win, so we want to come back now and win our cup games because that’s vital for us.”

    Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150922/wenger-my-selection-process-for-spurs?#tyU41XWDcfCttcr1.99


  29. Why not Google Glass type of thing for the refs. They can see the replays almost instantly while walking to the players and take the right decision. Virtually no delay.


  30. Well, up,until Sanchez came on I was BORED. I wanted my Arsenal back…..


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