Video refereeing is on the way and I’m in favour. But I’ll tell you this, there’ll be a lot more hiccups to come before they get the system right. And even then, it won’t end all controversy. There will still be mistakes.
Right now, I’m just glad we won’t see it in England next season. Apart from the FA Cup, that is, and I don’t mind that. You’ve got to experiment to get the best system perfected and, as we’ve seen from other competitions around the world, the trials are necessary towards that.
A lot depends on the quality and experience of the guys who look at the replays, the Video Assistant Referees as they’re being called. If they don’t grasp what’s required and have the knowledge to make a judgment then you will still get human error. In fact, I can’t see a way to eradicate mistakes completely.
But it’s important that the official watching the monitors is on a par with the match referee, the man in the middle. How’s it going to look for a junior referee to overrule a very experienced one at the top of his career? And will he be prepared to do so if necessary?
This, for me, is a vital consideration. We can’t have the nonsense we’ve had with assessors over the years – where, in some cases, a non-league referee is coming in to judge a seasoned League match official. I’ve always argued against that.
The other problem is the time you take to get a decision right. The game demands speed because we all love the flow and the momentum. But sometimes it’s just not possible to reach a decision quickly – as we saw in the recent England friendly in France over the penalty and the red card. Lots of replays were required and nobody could be sure the right call had been made in the end.
I know from being a TV pundit on many occasions that sometimes you can argue over a decision for minutes on end and still not everybody will be in agreement. That’s because a lot of refereeing is subjective and based on opinion – one man’s foul is not another man’s foul, one man’s yellow card is another man’s red card etc. etc. If in doubt, go with the referee.
In many ways, we don’t want to lose all that from the game. It’s part of the drama and excitement. We all love a good argument and I’ve never been backward in coming forward in that respect!
But where things are clear cut – diving, for instance – I’m all in favour of replays helping. I’m delighted to hear that the FA are bringing in retrospective charges for this. At last! After all, they’ve been doing it in Scotland for some time, as have UEFA. It would only take one season of retrospective bans to get rid of diving altogether, which I’ve been saying for years.
As to the idea of match referees being called to the side of the pitch to view replays, I can’t see that working. It’s better to have the video referee in the ear of the man in charge. If the referee had to come and watch a screen, you’d have managers and players screaming at him while he’s doing it. There would be too much noise and influence. You have to get away from that.
Final thought: how about having somebody who’s played the game at a decent level alongside the video referee? That might help eliminate mistakes, although at the end of the day you will still get them. It’s about having fewer errors and, in time, I think this move will succeed up to that point.