Premier League Must Use NFL-Style Replays to Avoid Referee Howlers

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2014


Liverpool's title challenge continued on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over West Ham at Upton Park, but the result was almost brought into disrepute by a highly controversial goal.

During injury time of the first half, Guy Demel poked in an equaliser for the Hammers after Reds goakpeer Simon Mignolet was almost certainly impeded by Andy Carroll.

101 Great Goals indicates that the linesman flagged for a foul and proceeded to have a lengthy conversation with referee Anthony Taylor. Either the assistant doubted himself or the referee overruled him, as the goal was allowed to stand.

In the aftermath, 101 Great Goals notes that Liverpool's players implored the ref to look up at the jumbo screen to see the clear foul, but he was not interested, as officials may not base their decisions on such evidence.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Jordan Henderson of Liverpool remonstrates with referee Anthony Taylor at half time after Guy Demel of West Ham scores a goal to level the scores at 1-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Live
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

At this point, Taylor was undermined by a huge screen showing everyone in the stadium what everyone at home already knew.

This is why the Premier League needs video replay technology—the officials need an officially sanctioned method of reviewing controversial incidents so that justice is done and their job is made easier.

Football fans often baulk at ideas being brought over from American sports—cheerleaders and Sky Sports' brash productions have historically been met with ire by traditionalists—but the beautiful game would benefit from the video replay system that has been in practise in the NFL since 1986.

On certain types of plays, coaches are allowed to "challenge" an official's decision, which then goes under review. Each team gets to make two of these challenges each game and a third if their first two were both correct.

If it works for the NFL, why can it not work in (real) football?

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 03:  Referee Jerome Boger #23 looks into the replay booth on a challenge call in the first quarter in the game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants at FedExField on December 3, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Imagine the drama that a manager's challenge would createthe tension in the stadium before the verdict is reached, the journalist's critiques on a Monday morning when a manager uses his challenges incorrectly.

One only needs to look at Hawk-Eye replays at professional tennis matches to see how entertaining this process can be.

The main opposition to such technology is that it would slow the game down. This simply doesn't have to be the case. The fourth official—or a specifically designated fifth official—could have an iPad on the side of the field which would replay a decision in seconds.

When a controversial incident occurs, players will often harangue the officials for several minutes at a time—just look at the recent Roma match where the ref was shouted at for five minutes before he changed his mind.

While the Americans may stretch out challenges as a cynical method of showing more adverts, a quick replay would take a fraction of the time usually consumed by complaining.

Another way in which football can borrow from the NFL—and rugby—is to broadcast the officials' conversations. The referee and his assistants are in constant communication via earpieces and microphones, so why not let everyone hear their decision-making process?

If we had heard what Taylor had said to his assistant at Upton Park on Sunday, perhaps we would have a greater understanding of the decision he reached.

The introduction of goal-line technology has demonstrated a willingness to improve the game with technology, so video replays are surely the next natural step. There is simply too much at stake in the modern game for a result to be negatively affected by human error.

The staid worlds of rugby, cricket and tennis have all embraced the benefits of video replay in one form or another, so it is time for football to get out of the dark ages.

Video replays would be better for referees, who would have less fear of making a bad decision. They would be better for teams, who can see that justice is always done. They would be better for fans, who would get an added layer of drama in the "challenge" process.

Isn't sporting drama what this whole thing is really about?


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