Video Replays a Step Too Far for Premier League Despite Chelsea Penalty

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Youssof Mulumbu of West Brom wins the ball ahead of Chelsea's Ramires during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on November 09, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke was left fuming last weekend as a late penalty awarded to Chelsea denied his side all three points.

But his calls for video replays aren't the way forward for the Premier League.

Neil Moxley of the Daily Mail reports that the Baggies have written to the bosses of the Premier League to express their dissatisfaction and ask for video technology to be used in future.

Part of the letter sent by chairman Jeremy Peace includes notes on West Brom's £250,000 investment in goal-line technology, states Moxley's report, technology that will be utilised far less often than video replays would for contentious penalty decisions.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Steve Clarke the West Brom manager reacts as Chelsea are awarded a late penalty during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on November 9, 2013 in London, England.  (
Ian Walton/Getty Images

In this, Peace is likely right, but there must be a line drawn at some point as to where human error—namely by referees and officials—has to be acceptable.

Goal-line technology was required and desired by many watchers and participants of the sport because that exact moment—calling whether a ball had crossed the line or not—directly and instantly affected the potential result of the game.

Goal or no goal? It's that simple.

However, the same cannot be said of in-play actions: marginal offside calls, off-the-ball violent incidents, penalty decisions.

True, the latter might only be a kick away from a goal, but the decision to give a penalty or otherwise can result in an entirely new phase of play. There has to be a constant fluidity about matches, especially in the Premier League where the high tempo is seen as one of the biggest selling points.

Again looking to the goal-line technology example, the referee has to receive a confirmed, accurate and instantaneous YES/NO decision within a second of the incident occurring. The same would simply not be possible for video replays on penalty decisions.

Even if the stoppage were only to be enough time to see the incident from two or three different angles, that would still take up at least six to 10 seconds—and even then, the fourth official (or whichever newly numbered official is handed responsibility for video-watching) is not guaranteed to come to the "right" call...or more accurately, the call that either manager wants him to arrive at.

Penalty incidents are frequently far less clear-cut than "was it a foul or not?"

Whereas a ball either has or hasn't crossed the line for a goal, a defender might have touched the attacker...but that doesn't necessarily make it an automatic penalty. Football remains, after all, a contact sport.

West Brom will argue, and perhaps rightly, that this penalty decision in particular has directly impacted on their season in a way that goal-line technology might well not do at all this term.

When Ramires won the penalty for Chelsea and Eden Hazard scored it in the dying seconds, two points were lost for the Baggies.

But that has to remain the decision of the referee and his assistants—and, of course, there is always the argument that the actual in-game situation could have been defended better.

Whether or not Peace's letter generates sufficient discussion in the media and amongst fans is, in all likelihood, irrelevant in the short term. It might bring the notion of in-game replays to the forefront of meetings, but it isn't going to present a solution any time soon to dodgy penalties.

In fact, if goal-line technology is anything to go by, we'll still be having this discussion in five years' time.