Grassroots Coaching

Referee Technology – The case for a ‘Review Official’

Football is by far and away the biggest sport in the world. Its sheer beauty is its simplicity. Two teams compete and try to score more goals than the other. How simple is that?! The teams involved attack, defend, attack and defend. The action quickly swings from end to end. The players are supreme athletes playing the game at a super fast pace. At the highest level of football all this action is captured by an array of cameras that show the action from every angle possible. The technology allows the action to be shown in super slow motion and it can be analysed by the experts in the studio in a matter of seconds. This superb TV coverage is then utilised and analysed by the media to focus on the more controversial moments that occurred during the game. These controversial moments are mainly focused on the decisions the officials got wrong and provide a main talking point for fans up and down the country, helping to sell the newspapers and generate interest through other media.

Arguably, these talking points and controversies fuel the interest in the game and help generate the huge incomes that football currently earns.

In the middle of this are the referees and the referee’s assistants. The referee and their assistants are expected to run up and down the pitch and keep up with play for 90+ minutes. They are expected to also be able to see everything that happens in a fraction of a second and to be able to make instant decisions that are always correct and fair. They are expected to do all this in spite of the fact that players and indeed managers are constantly bending the rules to their advantage and in many cases downright cheating.

Their performances are constantly analysed and criticised both during the match and after the match with the focus mainly being on what they get wrong, rather than what they get right. This analysis and criticism is helped greatly by the use of TV coverage, the slow motion replays and the opportunity to watch an incident several times and from different angles.

Yet, despite all this wonderful instant technology, the referee and their assistants still have to rely on each other and what they see at the time of  any incident in the game and their instant decision based upon these factors. Hardly a level playing field!

Surely it is possible to have an extra official who has all this wonderful technology at their disposal, who is linked up with the referee and their  assistants and who can help them make key decisions almost instantly in the course of the game.

“Pretty much every other major sport has some kind of referee technology with a fourth official using this technology to assist the other officials during the game. So why not football?”

Yes this will take some time to work out. It will take some trial and error. But surely it will improve the decision making ability of the officials and improve the standard of football generally at the highest level. At the very least this would provide a solution to the blatantly wrong decisions that officials sometimes make and could be put right in a matter of seconds with an instant review of the action. For example, the controversial Chelsea V Man Utd, Mark Clattenburg game.

The Fernando Torres sending off for diving. Mark Clattenburg blows his whistle for what he sees as a dive by Torres in responce to a sliding tackle by  Johnny Evans. The game stops. The review official quickly watches the incident. They say to Clattenburg that Evans made contact with the ball first, with Torres taking evasive action rather than diving. Torres stays on the pitch. Not perfect, but better than sending Torres off.

The Hernández off side goal for Man Utd in the same game. The incident happened so quickly that the referee and his assistant failed to spot Hernández was off side. The ball is in the back of the net, so the game has stopped. The review official watches the replay that clearly shows Hernández was offside when he scored. They contact Clattenburg and say Hernández was offside. Free kick given, game goes on.

During the 2012 World Cup. England V Germany. Frank Lampard’s shot just before half time. The ball hits the crossbar and bounces down. No goal say the officials. Instant replay on the TV shows the ball two feet over the line. Oh for a fourth official in that game!!

Let me know what you think in the comments below, I’d love to hear your opinions!


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