Why Football Must Introduce NFL-Style Video Reviews

Ryan BaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Referee Mark Clattenburg takes out his red and yellow cards when sending off Fernando Torres of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on October 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Monday morning football headlines should have been praising Jack Wilshere's magnificent return to the Emirates or the fearsome 5-0 wins of both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Instead, the column inches have been dominated, once again, by controversial refereeing decisions.

Luis Suarez's 95th-minute strike at Goodison Park would have won the Merseyside derby if it had not been deemed offside. Replays suggest the goal should have stood.

Manchester United earned their first league win at Stamford Bridge in 10 years thanks to a goal from Chicharito that was scored from an offside position, but not before two highly controversial red cards were issued to the Blues.

And over in Italy, Catania president Antonino Pulvirenti melodramatically declared "the death of football" after he believed his side were denied a goal against Juventus following protests from the Old Lady's bench. Salt was rubbed in the wound when Juve's winning goal was converted from an offside position.

With so much at stake in top-flight professional football, games can no longer be marred by human error. It's time for instant replay technology to be made available for officials.

Yes, allowing a referee to inspect video footage may disrupt the flow of the match for a few seconds. And yes, purists will argue until they are blue in the face that mistakes are part of the game, and it would be unfair to implement technology that cannot be replicated at all levels.

However, football is being left behind by other sports that have dared to move with the times. Not only has it become an intrinsic ingredient of other major games, but it can add to the entertainment value.

Take the NFL, for example, which has been using some form of instant replay since 1986. Teams are allowed to challenge up to three rulings per game, which the official will re-watch at a designated replay booth. Play is stopped temporarily during this process, allowing TV networks to generate extra revenue through commercial breaks.

In Sunday night's match between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, Dallas receiver Dez Bryant was denied a last-gasp winning touchdown after an instant replay showed his fingers were inches out of bounds. The decision to rule out his touchdown was not only exceptionally dramatic for the audience, but it was the right call, helping the correct team win the game.

How different would the Premier League table look now if Chelsea and Liverpool were able to challenge bad decisions over the weekend? How prevalent would referee match-fixing conspiracies be in Italy and the rest of Europe if their decisions were incontrovertibly backed up? Wouldn't all referees feel happier if they knew they would no longer be subject to a witch hunt after a poor decision?

American football isn't the only sport to change for the better with video replays. One of the most entertaining aspects of attending a professional tennis match can be watching the Hawk-Eye computer rendering on the big screen. Cricket has used a third umpire for many years. Rugby league and rugby union have both embraced video refs.

Yes, these sports have more natural breaks in them than football and are conducive to pauses for replays. But the benefit of accurate refereeing has to outweigh the cost of marginally disrupting the flow of the game.

FIFA has finally started to take positive steps by introducing goal-line technology, a long-awaited development that is expected to be used in the Premier League in 2013-14, and possibly sooner.

If they are interested in the progression of the game, they will also consider introducing technology for non-goal-line decisions.