Premier League referees being lambasted by players, managers, and fans has become an all too familiar sight this season. It seems that not a week goes by without Shearer, Wright et al. being forced to publicly shame the man in the middle on Match of the Day. Of course, referees have always made mistakes, they’ve always been the victims of abuse from players and fans, but at the moment it seems as though every match hinges on poor refereeing decisions.
Sunday’s game between Arsenal and Burnley was a prime example. Referee Jon Moss, having already awarded a perfectly justified penalty to Burnley to equalise, pointed to the spot when an offside Laurent Koscielny was brought down by Ben Mee. Of course, Arsenal scored the spot kick and won the match, as Jon Moss and his officials drew torrents of abuse from both sets of supporters on social media.
Here’s a radical idea though, how about instead of hurling our spittle flecked rage at Jon Moss, and at the Deans, Pawsons and Clattenburgs of this world, we turn our attention to the organisations and associations that refuse to help them. Other sports have embraced technology over the last fifteen years or so – tennis, rugby, cricket – they’ve all implemented video reviews to aid officials and thus make their games fairer.
And yet, football, the most watched sport in the world, lags behind, as organisations such as FIFA, the FA and the Premier League refuse to use the technology available to them to help curb the increasing vitriol directed towards officials. Surely Premier League referees must look at their colleagues in other sports and long for the same kind of clarity provided by video technology. Instead, they’re forced to rely on their own fallible human judgement, in a sport that becomes faster and more physically demanding each year.
Indeed, the use of technology in football is one that has always sparked debate. The more traditional supporter will spout something about not having any controversy to talk about in the pub after a game, should video reviews be introduced. It’s this unjustifiable resistance to change that has held football back in this regard for so many years. Do rugby fans, or American football fans have nothing to debate afterwards? Of course they do, the difference is they can discuss the tactical nuances and moments of quality that decided the game, rather than the mistakes of a few hapless men dressed in black.
With football, so much emphasis is place on tradition, that the rules and standards set by the early codifiers in Britain must not fade into insignificance. There have been many rule-changes and new legislation introduced into football over the last century or so, and how many of them have actually changed football for the worse?
It’s about time football caught up with the time we’re living in, and instead of seeking to maintain the traditions of times gone by, the authorities focused on optimising this great sport for the generation that watches it. Video technology in football will undoubtedly be introduced at some stage in the future, and it will make the game fairer for all, and then we can forget the man in the middle, and appreciate the sheer quality and skill of the players themselves.
When that happens, referees will sleep easier, and not have to lock themselves in their homes to avoid the threats and abuse of the fury fuelled, pub-crawling football fan. At a time when Donald Trump is president of the USA, ready to wage nuclear war on the entire solar system, people have enough to be angry about without Jon Moss ruining their Sunday afternoon.