The opening games of the season have seen some instances of poor decision making by top referees.
To balance this let me state that we have also witnessed some good officiating, a point that I made when praising Graham Scott for his prompt dismissal of Watford’s Miguel Brutos last weekend.
Yes, referees will make mistakes. Therefore, it is hard to understand why the top league in the world, spending billions of pounds on purchasing players, has delayed the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee. Italy, Germany, USA, Australia all appear satisfied with their decision to proceed with the system.
This is the same group of people at the Premier League who supported my call for the introduction of Goal Line Technology, which has been a great success.
There have been clear examples of where the Video Assistant Referee system would have come to the aid of our top referees.
Whilst the major talking point in the Manchester City game last weekend was the dismissal of Raheem Sterling for a second cautionable offence after scoring the winner, another incident was far more significant. That was where Mike Dean, instead of issuing incorrectly a yellow card for the foul on Jesus, would surely have been advised by the video referee that this was a clear DOGSO offence and red should have been the order of the day.
The player who committed the offence got away with it so what’s the betting that in similar circumstances later in the season he will do the same again.
The review panel cannot upgrade the yellow card to red post match in these situations.
In the Newcastle United game the illegal use of the elbow by Mitrovic was missed by the team of officials who appeared to have followed the ball rather than holding their gaze when the two players came together to detect the offence.
The practice of holding your gaze is a technique that referees are coached to do early in their career, often with the words that “the ball never commits an offence.”
This unseen incident was referred to the review panel some days later and the player is now deservedly serving a suspension.
We also had Kasper Schmeichel illegally saving a penalty kick at Old Trafford for Leicester City. In law there must be no forward movement until the ball is kicked.
Schmeichel moved forward before the kick was taken and was significantly off his goal line when making the save.
These three incidents were easy for the VAR to pick up and advise on the correct decisions. Teams offended against would have been given an opportunity on the day to play against ten men.
The referee, of course, only has one view of an incident in a game. He cannot guess on such big decisions. When that happens he is invariably incorrect.
The VAR, with a second look just like us armchair referees, and commentators, can clarify what took place.
At the start of 2018 we will see the Football Association operate the VAR in the FA Cup third round onwards. I fear that insufficient training will have taken place and that this will create errors and confusion.
To their credit PRO Referee, who provide officials to the MLS, were very active in training their officials prior to the VAR introduction.
Germany, with the appointment of former FIFA referees like Wolfgang Stark, and Italy have also taken similar action.
I know, for instance, that the FA have not contacted the likes of Mark Halsey or Glenn Turner to see if they might be interested in doing this role.
I can guarantee you that in the weeks ahead we will see game-changing errors by our match officials that could have been avoided if the Premier League had given the go-ahead for the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee.
More importantly, those players who have committed reckless challenges with excessive force that clearly endanger the safety of an opponent would have received the appropriate sanction of a red card.
I continue to express my concern about these challenges that must be outlawed.
The only way to do this is for referees to SEE, THINK, RECOGNISE and ACT before we see one of our top players severely injured.
AND for the Premier League to decide to bring forward the introduction of the VAR to our top league.
Our referees require this support.