“It’s embarrassing that you get this level of refereeing in the Champions League.”
Riccardo Montolivo summed up what pretty much the whole of Europe thought after Tom Henning Ovrebo’s disastrous performance last night. His farcical decision making, with the help of his assistant, has possibly cost Fiorentina the chance of an historic place in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, and should once again raise the question of video technology. When such blatant mistakes can be made (and that offside was so blatant a blind person could have seen it), what valid argument can there be against it?
It's all very well Rummenigge and Robben saying that these decisions sometimes go for you, sometimes against you, but if you are a smaller club like Fiorentina, chances like last night don't come around often enough to see these things balance out. Nor is the argument that “these controversies are what we love about the game” a good one; try asking Fiorentina fans this morning what they think about it.
Technology works in nearly every other major sport – rugby, tennis, cricket etc. Platini's arguments that "football is different" is nonsense. To say that the use of technology would break up the game is unfounded – the system could be set up so that it was only used when the ball went out of play anyway. To check an incident would take all of twenty seconds. Each team could be given a set number of challenges perhaps as well, to prevent abuse of the system. That way it would only be the truly controversial decisions that would get looked at, and would surely prevent such blatant miscarriages of justice as occurred last night.
I don’t buy the “grass roots” argument either; that is, that lower levels of the game would not have access to such technology. The response to that must surely be, so what? In all sports, the elite have many benefits that the amateurs do not. It’s a bit like saying Formula 1 cars shouldn’t be allowed to have such fast engines because the amateur stock car racers can’t afford them. The fact that the top level of a sport has more benefits doesn’t prevent people at lower levels still enjoying playing the sport – just ask the kids in the park who use jumpers for goalposts. Think of what video technology would have done recently – Henry’s handball would have been spotted; Fiorentina would have picked up at least the point they deserved last night.
Let’s be honest, video technology was the only reason that justice was done in the World Cup final four years ago when Zidane had his moment of madness. Imagine the controversy if he had stayed on the pitch and scored a winning penalty. Would justice have been done then?
Platini has instead stubbornly refused to even consider its use, instead giving us the wonderful penalty box referees, as seen (and rarely heard) in the Europa League. The difficulty with this is that if a linesman can be in line and still miss such a blatant offside as Klose’s last night, how can we rely on a penalty box official to do any better? In fact, in the few matches there have been with this new innovation, mistakes have already been made. Just ask Everton about their first Europa League game this season.
The fact is, there are too many poor officials in the game, making too many obviously poor decisions in crucial games. Maybe that’s not their fault, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think of a solution. The introduction of a properly thought-out and structured use of video replays would vastly improve important decisions and not leave teams feeling cheated by the incompetence of a poor official.
Yes, even video replays may not prove conclusive – but at least then that feeling of being robbed, as felt by Ireland’s and Fiorentina’s fans recently – would be greatly lessened.
Those against it will no doubt state that “mistakes are made all the time, it’s just the nature of the game.” This argument are fatally flawed however. In what other walk of life would you sit back and accept mistakes when there was already a ready-made solution out there?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be Platini’s argument. Surely after yet another poor refereeing performance last night, that line of argument itself is broken.