As part of my broadcasting routine, every weekend I make the same journey from home to a nondescript business park just a goalkeeper’s kick or two from Heathrow in Middlesex, and back.
It’s called Stockley Park, and it is coincidentally also home to the PGMO Ltd’s matchday headquarters, which has been receiving a great deal of attention of late.
I’m as pleased as anyone with how the opening week or so of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has gone in this country. Although it is quite obviously very early days, I think that, given how the system is faring elsewhere, those like myself who have been advocating the use of technology for many years are entitled to feel the slightest bit vindicated.
When I mention problems further afield, of course in Germany there have been horror stories, while they have potentially already lost confidence in similar set-ups in Italy and Australia as well.
In my opinion, however, the Leicester City versus Fleetwood Town FA Cup third round replay, from the officials’ point of view, was well-managed all round and produced accurate and timely decisions.
So take a bow, not just Jon Moss, Lee Betts, Andy Halliday and Neil Swarbrick, but Mike Jones, Peter Kirkup and Mike Riley, too. No one can say this wasn’t done properly and I think it also emphasises the wisdom of deploying at the very least recent top referees and not ex-players, or anyone else for that matter, in the VAR team.
Naturally enough, the night will be remembered for the award of Leicester’s second goal, and I did like the sense of drama that accompanied Moss’s indication that he was referring the decision ‘upstairs’. That prompted a big crowd reaction itself, of course, and another good thing was the way there were no players moaning at Moss for the next ten minutes after the decision had been finalised.
As we go forward with the aid of technology, even if players and fans are to have a moan-up, I think it’s a price worth paying and something an assistant especially can expect in future televised games when a call goes against the fans they are running the line in front of.
There are bound to be further downsides, such as the chaos that will surely ensue if a penalty brings back play after the ball has gone down the other end and we are all wrapped up in the next phase, but again I think it’s worth it to be sure we are getting far more decisions spot-on.
There is certainly no shame attached to Betts, the man who flagged, after what was such a tight call. Furthermore, in the amount of time it took to overrule the offside, at one minute seven seconds, we arrived at a situation where a perfectly good goal from a cracking move could be given instead of having to be chalked off.
No harm done then, and the key for me is that, while we are all happy to talk about it wherever fans may gather afterwards, be it in person or online or even on the phone, we all moved on straight away without the lingering need to go over the decision over and over again, forever and a day.
The result at the King Power Stadium provided a shining example just when we needed one. I’m only gutted I wasn’t at Stockley Park myself, for once, to see history in the making!