Another week, another debate over video technology.
This time, it isn’t the use of cameras or gadgets to tell referees whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line. Instead, it’s the use of replays retrospectively in order to guarantee that the correct decision is made.
Arsenal’s Croatian striker Eduardo is the man at the centre of it all, having "dived" in order to win a penalty in his side’s 3-1 win over Celtic on Wednesday night.
We see this kind of incident every week; a player goes down under minimal contact, and the referee points to the spot. People complain but always tend to accept in the end that it's “part of the modern game.”
The difference this time is the extensive media coverage of the incident. Replays are shown hourly of the clash, and it looks like they may have forced UEFA’s hand, as they have now charged the striker with diving.
The situation has some similarities with a ban Chelsea’s Michael Essien received in 2005 for a challenge on Liverpool’s Dietmar Hamann. The referee didn’t send the Ghanaian off for the high tackle, but after the constant bombardment of replays, Essien was hit with a two-match ban.
The challenge deserved punishment, but the manner in which the decision was reached had never sat comfortably with Chelsea fans.
In this sense, I can understand Arsene Wenger labeling the affair a “witch hunt,” with his striker now being considered a cheat.
TV companies continuously replay the incident, in effect forcing UEFA’s hand in punishing Eduardo, whether or not the referee mentioned it in his report.
This is the key area of retrospective replays that has to be addressed. If FIFA are sure they want to find a human solution to these problems rather than a reliance on technology, then perhaps a limit or restriction on what can be shown on sports news channels post-match is needed, to prevent this trial by media scenario from rumbling on.
There’s no doubt that both Essien and Eduardo were punished as a result of persistence by the media, not by retrospect on UEFA’s part.
One channel today, whilst speaking to a betting company, went as far as giving viewers a special offer of 33/1 that Eduardo would be booked for diving this weekend.
Of course, the next problem is, how do those in charge decide when and where punishments should be handed out?
Focusing on Eduardo’s case, can UEFA say without a doubt that there was no contact? Any player out there will tell you the slightest touch can send you down, and this makes judging future incidents difficult.
Admittedly, Eduardo looks to be a guilty man. The only thing missing from the scene was a splash at the end, but as Roy Keane said today, it can be difficult to judge as some players anticipate contact and whilst a challenge is made, they may already be on their way down when it arrives.
This debate will go on for some time. Wenger put his thoughts across today, and as is sometimes true with the Frenchman, they didn’t hold much water.
His suggestion that Eduardo didn’t dive, that he was merely trying to avoid a repeat of his horrific injury, is far-fetched. If that were the case, he’d have been safer staying on his feet rather than throwing himself to the ground.
So, are UEFA right to hand out retrospective bans when the incident has been flagged up by one of their officials?
Is now the time to introduce extra officials or video replays?
Which would you prefer to see?
And the big question: Does Eduardo deserve a ban?