Once again the English Premier League has thrown up a lot of debate involving referees. Andre Marriner finds himself under the spotlight this week after he correctly awarded Chelsea a penalty and wrongly sent of Gibbs.
It’s was clear on first view that Marriner hadn’t seen the handball and clearly got word from his assistant referee. Due the fact match officials are not allowed to chat to the media or communicate with the ‘outside’ world we will never know what really happened in terms of communication between them. Let’s look at the events and break them down. Marriner misses the handball completely and is ‘dug out a hole’ by his assistant who tells him there was a handball – he correctly awards the penalty and correctly reduces Arsenal to ten men although wrongly sending of Gibbs instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain (OC)
The man at fault is the assistant referee for not identifying that OC handled the ball. As a referee you must identify the player immediately, either by number or by looks. In the EPL most players are very famous and officials will call them by name as opposed to by number. Now many pundits and experts have been calling for tv footage to be introduced into the game. In this situation TV footage would have been ideal. Fourth official Anthony Taylor could have told Marriner of his mistake thus allowing it to be corrected within seconds. What if Marriner and his team missed the handball completely then Taylor spots it on TV. Do we go back and award the penalty – many will yes that seems logical.
Okay hypothetically speaking, let’s go to an Old Firm match at Ibrox. Kris Commons goes down in the penalty area and the referee waves away his claims. Rangers immediately break up the pitch and shot at goal. The defender on the line handles the ball and the ref awards a penalty and sanction the player with a red card. As the Celtic player trudges of the field of play the 4th officials calls the referee over and tells him the challenge on Kris Commons should be a penalty. Prepare for World War Three.
I am aware that this is extreme to say the least, however, it’s just one problematic scenario of introducing TV evidence. How do we restart play? How do we stop play?
At international matches a member of the local referee association will sit beside the operator of the screens. He will make the decision of what can and cannot be shown. This system failed catastrophically on 27th June 2010 when the Italian team of officials lead by referee Rosetti, allowed a goal by Tevez to stand against the Mexicans. Tevez was so far offside he was actually ahead of the goalkeeper. Rosetti approached his assistant referee to chat about the goal. Whilst they stood chatting – the billions around the world and the thousands in the stadiums were shown the goal was offside. Rosetti and his assistant were also aware they had made a terrible error. Both now had a choice to make. Allow the goal to wrongly stand or, based on TV evidence, chop the goal off. If they chopped the goal off they would never officiate again and FIFA would almost have certainly demanded the matches be replayed. So against their best will they had to go with a wrong call and face boarding the next plane from South Africa back to Italy with their World Cup dream in bits.
I believe TV evidence has a place in our game. But we need clear guidelines and incidents when it should be used. Goals being scored that are slightly offside or penalties being awarded / not awarded are all parts of the game we love so much. The day we get every decision correct I fear a part of the game will die along with it.