Belfast Telegraph

West Brom's Chris Baird calls for immediate introduction of video technology

By Paul Ferguson

Vocal Northern Ireland international Chris Baird has asked for actions to finally speak louder than words over the delayed introduction of video technology in football.

Football lawmakers, including delegates from the Irish Football Association, have for years been debating the merits of offering match officials with instant replays during games to help them make the correct decisions on major incidents. It was set be tested in 2016, but has now been put back a year.

The main arguments against seem to be that a fast flowing game of football would be slowed down and that technology wouldn’t be implemented, due to finance, in all levels of the game.

The overwhelming positive remains that it could dramatically cut down human error from the officials, meaning the talking points after a game will always focus on the players, rather than a referee.

Football chiefs have allowed  goalline technology but that doesn’t go far enough for Baird, who has played in the Premier League with Southampton and Fulham.

After Baird’s West Brom and international team-mate Gareth McAuley was sent off in a blatant case of mistaken identity during a recent Premier League game against Manchester City, the Rasharkin man believes football should be allowed to evolve in the 21st century with the video technology given the green light. Baird insists it would help referees as they wouldn’t be under as much scrutiny and pressure, while a break of 30 seconds each time, to look at serious decisions in a game, wouldn’t have a huge impact over the course of 90 minutes.

He is still incensed McAuley saw red after just two minutes of West Brom’s game against City, even though he felt it was clear Craig Dawson had made the foul. Video technology would have been able to rectify the situation straight away.

Referee Neil Swarbrick admitted his mistake after the game and apologised, once he’d seen a replay of the incident. The FA, following an appeal from West Brom, rescinded McAuley’s red card and hit Dawson with a one-match ban.

Baird says: “I couldn’t believe it when Gareth was sent off. I said to the ref: “You’ve got the wrong person, you know that?” But he said that he’d seen 23, Gareth’s number, and he was sending him off. He obviously felt he couldn’t change his mind and Gareth’s game was over.

“A quick look at a replay would have sorted the situation straight away and Gareth would not have been incorrectly sent off. This is not me having a go at refs. They have a tough job to do. In actual fact, I believe video technology would help them. What would it take? 30 seconds. It took that long for him to talk to us as we complained about the decision. For me personally it needs to be changed. There have been a lot more mistakes this season by officials. It is a hard job and we don’t make it easy for the refs.”

McAuley’s dismissal was the second case of mistaken identity in a matter of weeks in the Premier League. Sunderland’s Wes Brown was sent off against Manchester United at Old Trafford, even though it was clear on the broadcast pictures that John O’Shea had committed the foul. Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson called for the introduction of technology following his side’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool on New Year’s Day when Wes Morgan was shown a yellow card for handling Raheem Sterling’s cut-back, but replays showed the ball struck the Leicester defender in the face.

Rugby, cricket and American Football have been using television reviews for years and they have been a roaring success in those sports.

But football has so far refused to embrace technology, much to bemusement of Baird.

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