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To Replay or not to Replay

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 19/08/2009

ONCE again we have heard calls for technology to be used in football to aid referees in making a decision as to whether the ball has crossed the line. Although there's no doubt it would help in incidents like at Crystal Palace at the weekend, it has to be said that such occurrences are very rare.

My problems with using technology to decide TV decisions are as follows.

  • The technology is not always available. Although games in the Premiership and at least some in the Championship have enough cameras in the ground, clearly all games cannot be covered. In Rugby League it's a similar situation. Watching games on TV you might get the impression that television is used to help the referee but if you ever go to a non-televised game you'll be lucky to see the use of television replays. Tennis is the same - only the show courts at the major venues have Hawkeye. The rules in football are the same now at whatever level you are playing at, and should not depend what TV company is showing the game, or what stadium it's happening in.

  • The decision is not always obvious even with television replays. You only have to watch a single episode of Match of the Day to see that even so-called experts cannot agree on many major decisions. Again in Rugby League I have even see the television ref get it wrong aided by all his cameras! Decisions as clear-cut as the Crystal Palace one are so rare they would hardly ever be needed.

  • The pressure on referees would increase. In football the respect shown towards officials is far less than in other sports, and the high profile nature of our game means decisions made with the benefit of technology are bound to generate a lot of controversy. At least now we can all accept that the ref was not sighted, or that he has made a mistake, but when a decision some people don't agree with is by an official with the benefit of TV replays the consequences could be much greater.

  • It's the tip of the iceberg. The TV companies who have taken over the upper levels of our game would love an opportunity to put advertisement breaks in the middle of matches (if football was invented now there's no way we'd have two halves of 45 minutes). You can guarantee that once technology has been introduced for the ball crossing the line, offside will be the next thing. And then we'll have penalties. There are just too many incidents in a game where a split second decision has to be made, and the temptation to keep increasing the TV coverage is bound to be there. I dread to think that football will ever be like US Football, where a game which basically lasts an hour takes at least twice that because of all the stoppages.

    There are one or two areas where I think football could benefit from some changes, many of which we can see in use in other sports, but that's the subject of another article.

    I would be happy to see TV technology used in something like a World Cup where the ramifications of a mistake are enormous, but for our domestic leagues I do not believe they will be any significant difference to the bigger picture of the eventual winners and losers at the end of the season.

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