The Dutch FA is currently testing referee-assisting video technology.
Despite the International Football Association Board delaying it’s use in competitive matches for a year this past February, Dutch FA officials think it will be ready in about five years.
Certainly everyone has seen some laughable calls made by referees, including terrible decisions that affect the outcome of games. Remember when Andre Marriner mistakenly sent off Kieran Gibbs for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s handball? I could write a book on the wondrous things Anthony Taylor has done. He was so embarrassed by his performance when we played Aston Villa last year in the league opener, he now doesn’t even want to make a decision when put in charge of Arsenal games for fear of reprisals.
Apparently the Dutch FA intends to do something about this.
They have been actively testing a video-related technology that they think is isn’t ready just yet, but may be ready within five years. Last week, BBC Sport reported that Gijs de Jong, operations director at Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond (KNVB), said “I think it won’t take more than five years, that’s what I expect.”
The technology in question is nothing more than an extra official in a booth, presumably a fifth assistant, that does nothing but review passages of play and referee calls for accuracy. They would do this using the same video you and I see on television. The assistant would then transmit his (or her) findings by radio back to the primary referee in charge of the game.
By the description, it is not clear if the assistant is constantly looking, or if he (or she) is providing their input upon the referee’s request. Nevertheless, the desired outcome is to quickly bolster or refute the referee’s call without publicly embarrassing them. Right now, this is being limited to only two or three critical game-determining calls over the course of a 90-minute game.
To any fan, the concept of having error-free officiating is an absolute dream. Imagine having every high boot, every stamping event, or every handball in the box accurately called for a red card – the correct offender being appropriately punished. Imagine penalty kicks rescinded because video technology determined that the player dived. How would Liverpool ever score?
In this perfect world, fans would have absolutely nothing to talk about except for the exploits of their heroes, and decisions made by the manager – that’s actually a good thing because it’s focused on the actual game play, not the aberrations or sideshows of it.
On the other hand, we’d no longer be able to partake in our other fetish – chiding the ref. This activity, made very famous in the US recently by Arseblog over NBC television, would no longer be possible, taking some of the ‘fun‘ out of the game. Journos also love a good juicy controversy, when they’re not inventing one, and this would take that away as well.
One thing video technology can’t do is reveal is what is going on in the player’s head in order to determine intent. That would require mind-reading technology, which despite what conspiracy theorist think is yet to exist. So it would still leave some debate as to whether a foul was premeditated in addition to being egregious enough for a sending off.
The biggest thing yet to be seen is how this will progress in terms of the time these video reviews take in an actual game. The original intent of using it for two to three crucial game-deciding incidents is that it would only take up to an additional 20 seconds each. This would not inhibit the flow of play significantly, and only potentially add a full minute to stoppage time – if it were just two to three events in a game.
The real problem is this: games in the Barclay’s Premier League are typically faster paced and have a lot more than just two to three potentially game-changing events in a 20 minute period, let alone a full 90 minutes. Some refs blow their whistle, stopping play once a minute. Just how much Fergie time would video technology add to that on a game-by-game basis?
There used to be a time when American Football matches were 60 minutes of game play performed in no more than a two and a half to three hour span given all the commercials, penalty flags, timeouts and halftime – and it used to be fairly exciting. Now, ‘after further review’ and manager protests modern games add another hour of idle time to that. It’s become dreadfully slow and a comparatively boring shell of it’s former self.
Shall we discuss what it’s done to the other, already slow-paced American past time, baseball?
Ok, so the American Football analogy is ridiculous in comparison. But if video technology added just 25% more idle time to a match, it infers that we’ll end up seeing playing times like 90+22 in the box scores.
The point remains: is video technology really worth having a little bit more accuracy? So much time and money is being appropriated in the direction of technology to create the perfect solution to man’s inclination to make mistakes. Hopefully the FA is looking at all potential issues and solutions, not just a fifth ref looking at video technology in a booth – hardly worthy of calling it ‘technology’ to begin with.
More importantly, hopefully this would include the one, most obvious solution of all: encouraging the better training of referees.