Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Technology can end ref debate

Callum McManaman's tackle sparked debate
Callum McManaman's tackle sparked debate

I’m sure there are more than a few of you who don’t like that I continually have a pop at referees. Allow me to let you into a little secret: neither do I.

 

I am fed up that my eyes are continually drawn to individuals on the pitch other than the players and that the phone-in I present is usually dominated by references to the officials that make the decisions. I wish it weren’t so, honestly.

But look at the weekend that’s just past. Are we meant to ignore the injustices, to accept that ‘it’s all in the game’ and that we can have a good laugh or argument about it down in the pub? No, that’s not how I like to spend my Saturday or Sunday nights. So, in no particular order…

An anonymous caller to 6-0-6, a Grade III referee, tried to tell me that Lee Probert got his decision at Everton absolutely right: that it was, indeed, an example of the best kind of refereeing.

He argued that Probert’s ludicrous decision to award a free-kick to Manchester City — supposedly for a hand ball by Leon Osman — rather than a penalty as Marouane Fellaini virtually ‘caught’ the ball a yard inside the area was correct.

If so, why didn’t Probert tell the players? Why was Roberto Mancini so ‘angry’ afterwards that he couldn’t face the media? Heavens, why didn’t Probert just explain himself to the public?

It struck me as another example of a referee being afraid to make the right call because he wasn’t certain: easier to give a free-kick rather than a penalty that could swing the game. On to Sunderland and the three biggest decisions taken by Chris Foy, I would argue, were all wrong.

When Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn left his penalty area what portion of the population felt he deliberately handled the ball and deserved to be sent off?

Did Sebastian Bassong ‘deliberately’ control the ball by rolling it down off his chest onto his arm leading to the Sunderland penalty?

Why was the Danny Rose hand ball seen as outside rather than inside the box? Should we all go to Specsavers? And then we had the Wigan game.

I have a lot of time for Mark Halsey but I don’t know where he was looking if he didn’t see that horrendous challenge by Callum McManaman.

And Figueroa’s hand ball that led to Wigan’s late winner was the clearest hand ball of the weekend!

All three of those games were shown live on television and the incidents were held up to ‘reality’ by multiple camera angles. Yes, I know that’s ‘unfair’ on referees but that’s the way the game is now.

Let me go further. Every one of those controversies led to a stoppage in play that provided ample time for a fourth official to see the replay and advise the referee about the correctness or otherwise of his decision?

Really, would that diminish the authority of the man in the middle? Nor for me: I’d feel far better that he’d got it right.