Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Forget about snoods, and give referees the help they deserve

Aren’t we truly blessed to have the International Board looking after our football interests?

Who won’t sleep easier in their beds at night knowing those ‘dangerous’ snoods are banned?

They should be embarrassed. They should have swept such trivial matters off the agenda and dealt properly with an issue that is central to the future of the game: how to help referees do their job.

I am not heartened to hear that experiments will continue with goal-line technology, that it might even be ‘ready’ for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That would be merely a first step in terms of what is really required: the full and proper use of video technology.

This is not another exercise in bashing referees. The cliché is true: they, particularly those at the top level under intense television scrutiny, have a very difficult, if not impossible, job. That’s why they need all the help they can get and I have yet to speak to any referee who isn’t in favour of getting such help.

On Sunday I commentated on Wolves’ game against Spurs. It was a terrific match helped, I thought, by the refereeing of Mark Halsey. He did though make at least two contentious decisions: a) NOT sending off Alan Hutton and b) disallowing Richard Stearman’s ‘goal’.

The irony is that technology wouldn’t have altered either decision. I haven’t the slightest doubt that Halsey thought the Scot’s penalty-inducing offence DIDN’T deny a clear goal-scoring opportunity — he would have shown a red card — and that Stearman had fouled the Spurs goalkeeper. The key factor is those decisions were made ‘in the referee’s opinion’ and no video can change that.

However, where change can come about is in assessing matters of fact. Did the ball cross the line? Was an offence committed inside or outside the penalty area?

Was the player onside or off?

Take Andrey Arshavin’s disallowed goal on Saturday. There isn’t much doubt, is there, that the Russian was actually onside. Think how important that decision might be come May in deciding who wins the Premier League. Yet how long would it have taken to correct the assistant referee’s mistake — perhaps, no more than a couple of seconds?

And so what if it means there’s less to argue about when you go to a pub after a game. I’ve always thought that’s the most ridiculous ‘defence’ for leaving things as they are. Shouldn’t we be far more concerned with ensuring the right decision is made?

Similarly, let’s get our heads out of the sand in regards to ‘retrospective punishment’. I think Jamie Carragher’s ‘tackle’ on Nani was just as bad as Rooney’s elbow on McCarthy the previous weekend. Phil Dowd certainly did see it and I simply don’t believe Mark Clattenburg when he says he did too. How can a yellow card be sufficient punishment?

And the Football Association CAN act: even Sepp Blatter says so; “If there’s violence, the national association can intervene and punish a player.”

Aren’t we long past the time of ignoring the technology that can help referees and their assistants make fewer mistakes? International Board, for goodness sake, get on with it!

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