Sunday, 28 October 2012


A pulsating European tie heading the way of Man Utd at Old Trafford has been turned on its head after the referee sent off Nani for a 'dangerous high challenge' in the second half. Within minutes Real Madrid came from 1 - 0 down and a losing aggregate position to a 1 -2 advantage. Uts are down to 10 men and suddenly need 2 goals without reply to progress. Most observers expected at worst a yellow card for Nani. Yet again a controversial decision, which might have been avoided with a moment's pause for thought and a swift review of the video footage, has marred an excellent match. How does football benefit from the current state of affairs?
The following article discusses the issue in more detail.
UPDATE 19.2.13
FIFA has announced that goal line technology will be available for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Whilst this is of course welcome, it is only step one in the very necessary upgrading of football's use of technology so that in future we can concentrate on the merits of the football rather than endlessly debating the errors and transgressions which currently litter our national game.
Below is a discussion on the benefits of wider introduction of technology.
Technology Needed
English Football has some problems right now. Some of those could be addressed by a grown up and rational decision about the use of technology. Every week the game is assailed by controversies about refereeing decisions, but also other issues (eg Clattenberg) which could mostly be swiftly resolved by instant reference to technology and in particular TV evidence. Last week the debate was all about whether the ball had crossed the line. This week, and it gives me no pleasure to write this, the pundits were enraged by blatant diving by Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, for which he was rewarded with a game changing penalty. What he should have got was at the very least a yellow card and no penalty. Technology, delivered in seconds, would have seen justice done. There are further arguments about retrspective bans (3 games for cheating?) The rise of simulation needs to be addressed in 2 ways. By ensuring it does not succceed and by making sure it is properly punished.
Guilty as Charged?

Below are my thoughts as this situation has developed over recent weeks.

Football in Chaos
The first proper Super Sunday of the season, with a Merseyside Derby and Chelsea v Man Utd, should have been an occasion to showcase the English Premier League. There were in fact many things to admire about both games. Unfortunately we will not hear much about them now. The post match analysis and all the headlines relating to both matches will be all about the refereeing decisions which effectively decided the outcomes and seemingly created injustice. 606 on the BBC tonight is full of embittered fans complaining about the rights and the wrongs. The errors can make us all bitter and twisted.
It seems that some key decisions relating to goals, offsides and a sending off for 'diving' were wrong. There are many mitigating circumstances to excuse the referees, not least the speed of the game and the intensity  of the occasion, but also the constant cheating (simulation) by players. I can forgive the referees. They can be improved, but I doubt very much that anybody else would be much better. As an aside England provided the referee for the last World Cup Final. I doubt this would have happened unless English referees were very well respected and as capable as anybody of doing the job.
There is less mitigation for the Football authorities. Technology to assist referees to get the right decision more often (even if not faultless) is urgently required. European leading figures Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini (UEFA President) both argue in favour of the retention of a 'human element' and would have linesmen behind the goals or in a line of sight with the goal. They flatly refuse to contemplate technology for goal lines, but also within the wider context of the game for other important decisions.


I though am with  Patrick Barclay, formerly of the Times and now the Evening Standard. He has consistently argued that goal line controversies are extremely rare, and that FIFA should in fact have a 'video referee' (what does the 4th Official currently do?) in the stands providing assistance to the referee generally rather than limiting it to a very rare and isolated function. One of the attractive aspects of this would be that this official would be removed from the field of play and he could thus go about his business calmly without the hindrance of player protest. Players and club officals do not have access to the man in the 4th offical room.
This 4th (5th?) official should have a constant link with the referee and could provide vital information to allow decisions to be correct more often. It need not be used for every decision, but for those where there are significant consequences ie where goals are scored or cards will result if the decision goes the wrong way. There is a sour taste in the mouth when a 'goal' is score which was not in fact a goal for whatever reason. What can feel worse than being sent from the field of play for something you have not done. Imagine Laurent Blanc in the World Cup semi final 1998. Sent off and missing the World Cup final because of appalling simulation by Slaven Bilic. It would not have happened if we had technology. That technology exists now which is why we all know that certain decisions are wrong.
Incidentally Mark Clattenberg's current 'difficulties' could be swiftly resolved if he was miked up and everything was recorded, even if not disclosed. Although to be honest, if we got to hear what was said on a football field the game would be cleaned up in record time or there would be no sponsors left! Clattenberg was connected to his assistant referees and the 4th Official. None of them heard him utter anything untoward. Chelsea's case is limping badly already. For the protection of officials, the technology must be introduced.
With technology  we could tackle simulation at the same time by demonstrating where it has incontrovertibly taken place. Red cards could immediately follow. Divers would swiftly be a dying breed.

Dying Swan (Breed)
UPDATE 12.11.12
Mark Clattenberg will not referee this weekend for the 3rd straight week. It is said to be for his own good. I doubt it. If the technology had included recorded audio feeds from the officials a) Clattenberg would possibly have missed no matches at all (or never refereed again!) and b) player behaviour would have already dramatically improved.
UPDATE 13.11.12
The Metropolitan Police have tonight announced that they are no longer investigating Mark Clattenberg. There is no evidence to justify a charge and 'no victim'. The complainant was Peter Herbert (Society of Black Lawyers). This complaint has seemingly not been backed up by  Chelsea or its players. Although a complaint was made by them to the FA, Chelsea did not complain to the Police. According to reports, all the match officials supported Clattenberg in stating that no such abuse was heard. All the
available evidence for the Police accordingly exonerated Clattenberg.
The FA now need to bring their investigatory process to a rapid conclusion and to make a decision. The end of this particular affair may well be approaching.
Thereafter protocols need to be agreed with the Police with regard to how to proceed in future. The unhappy intervention of outside parties needs to be looked at and another protocol established.
UPDATE 22.11.12
The FA has announced today that there is insufficient evidence to charge Mark Clattenberg. I am not remotely surprised given that the other 3 officials who were all linked up with him heard no abusive comments. Only one Chelsea player (and not the alleged victim) heard anything allegedly untoward. The broadcasting and recording of what is picked up by the referee's microphone would undoubtedly have spared Clattenberg this anguish and media trial. It would also dramatically clean up the game.
In a fast moving story it has now been decided that the referee link up will be recorded although kept confidential - football's authorities fear the embarrassment of the reality of on field goings on becoming public. One additional benefit will be that the monitoring of referee's performance will now have some powerful evidence to go on.
Meanwhile John Obi Mikel has been charged with threatening and abusive behaviour towards Clattenberg following the fateful match after an altercation.

UPDATE 6.12.12
Chelsea's Mikel admitted an FA charge of Threatening Behaviour relating to referee Mark Clattenberg behind the scenes after the Chelsea v Man Utd game.  He requested a persona\l hearing and today it was announced that he will serve a 3 game suspension. The Independent Regulatory Commission Chairman made it clear that they accepted that when he made the threats Mikel genuinely believed (as a result of what he had been told by colleague Ramires) that Clattenberg had racially abused him. Otherwise the ban would have been much longer.
What follows is the background and build up to the Mikel suspension.

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