Is it about time we got over, or got used to refereeing mistakes?
The truth is, this column cannot hope to discuss all, or even most, of the drama, controversy and excitement which occurred on Sunday. Neither can it hope to examine and remark on all of the outcry that has taken place in the days after. However, perhaps this opportunity should be used to re-open a new debate.
In both matches, there were key offside decisions which in both situations the officials got wrong. This is not an attack on the linesmen; such was the melee of bodies around the goalmouth in both circumstances that there simply no clear viewpoints. This also prevented the referees from being able to make a call (although in Mark Clattenburgs case, that might not have been any help). Clattenburg and Andre Marriner (the man in charge at Goodison Park), were hindered by the crush of players inside the six-yard box, and so had to rely on their linesmen to make the calls. These calls could not have been more than guesstimates. In both cases, it was not a matter of inches either. Javier Hernandez was offside by about half a yard when he turned in the winner for Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, while Luis Suarez was comfortably onside in the last seconds of the Liverpool derby.
My point here is that both matches, full of skill, individual brilliance and gritty team effort, are now being discussed in terms of mistakes by officials. Games that showcase why the Permiership is the most internationally acclaimed league in the world were given hollow endings by officiating errors. With goalline technology being considered for the Premier League next year, it’s time to lend offside decisions the same air of efficiency. There are a number of options to consider, ranging from extra officials behind the goal to instant replays on the big TV screens, where the referee could halt the game for a very short period while the replay was being shown, and then come away with the right decision.
The main argument against the latter course of action is that it would take too much time, and constantly disrupt the natural flow of the game. However, it seems unlikely that managers, players or fans would be too concerned about interrupting the ‘flow of the game’, when key decisions could be going against them. Continuing along these lines, try saying that referees getting decisions wrong is part and parcel of the game (and makes it more controversial and dramatic), to a manager who’s just been robbed of valuable points by an erroneous call. Neither is it worthwhile repeating the old ‘decisions even out over the course of the season’ argument; this seems to be saying that poor decisions are something we must accept, and not bother to try and improve. Besides, a poor decision at the end of the season can mean more than just a point or two; it can be the difference between relegation and survival, or runners-up and title glory.
My point here is not that referees in this country are in some way at fault, or that we have an inherent problem with officials making decisions, rather that they need all the help they can get from the technology that is now abundantly available. Not only would this prevent ref’s from suffering the levels of abuse and anger they do over decisions they cannot physically make with any certainty, it would rule out injustices occurring that can have disastrous consequences for a teams season (and even short-term history).
Author: Euan Cunningham