Are Video Referees on the Way?

A fan of this column in Australia emailed me after my article on retrospective punishment. ‘Isn’t it true,’ he wrote, ‘that football is lagging behind in the use of technology? In cricket they can detect the slightest touch of the ball on bat but in soccer the ball can cross the goal line and the scoring side go unrewarded’. It has to be admitted that football has been reluctant to use technology. There are a couple of main reasons for this. One is that it doesn’t want to impinge on the referees’ authority and the other is it doesn’t want games held up awaiting decisions. When goal line technology was finally agreed there were two criteria. One was that the signal went only to the referee and secondly that he received it in no more than a second.

I think however that two unrelated incidents might signal a change. The Netherlands FA has been unofficially experimenting with a video referee but the IFAB at their meeting in February refused to sanction official trials. Now however, MLS in North America has declared that it will trial the use of video referees in friendly matches only, to get around the IFAB ban, with a view to designing a system that can operational for the world of football within 12 months.

As I reported in this column earlier in the season, some FA’s, unhappy at the changes to the offside interpretations, decided to introduce their own. This forced the IFAB to hastily produce new interpretations not agreed at their annual Laws meeting. Perhaps MLS hope they can do the same with video refereeing.

The other incident is the involvement of UEFA President, Marcel Platini, in the FIFA scandals, denting his hopes of succeeding Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA. Platini is the arch enemy of technology in football. Only after he had stopped being Blatter’s advisor did FIFA accept goal line technology but Platini still won’t allow it in European games.

Could there be a change on the way?

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