“Justice delayed is justice denied.” Anon
What Retrospective refereeing panels mean is that on any given Super Sunday, a key game or fix-ture can still be decided by a deliberate act of cheating.
In the nano-second world in which we live, everything happens fast and is analysed instantly – nowhere more so than in the upper echelons of the high-octane sport of the ever-quickening beautiful game.
From the financial farce that is FIFA to Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson to Diego Maradona, the late 20th and early 21st century is a sporting era synonymous with cheating and corruption at the elite levels of sporting competition – where money and the prizes of success at any price are too strong a temptation to resist.
It is ironic – and plain wrong – that this is happening simultaneously in an era where increased technological advancement means that cheats should not be allowed to get way with their on-field crimes – just as criminals in the real world are captured by CCTV.
Yet new FA proposals to make ”Successful Deception of a Match Official’ an offence in England next year – IF a 3-man panel comprising an ex-Referee, an ex-Manager and an ex-Player all agree – allows football teams and players to do exactly that and get away with a dive during a match then be banned after the damage has been done – is a move that has been rubbished – literally – by former England boss Sam Allardyce:
“Bring technology in and we can look at it on the day.
“Then bring a sin bin in so we can put him in the sin bin for 10 minutes and then put him back on.
“Then we can stop paying all these people money for them to do rubbish situations in the game. That is utter rubbish.”
Strong words from the Crystal Palace boss yet for a modern manager heavily reliant on the best available technology for his success, he is – for once – on the right track though sin bins would allow players to come back on refreshed.
It is the 21st century and in a sport worth hundreds of millions of pounds, there are absolutely no excuses for there not to be in-game video technology assisting all-too human referees attempting to keep up with 22 highly-attuned, superby-trained mercenary elite athletes attempting to gain any advantage at any price.
Video Assisted Refereeing technology is used the world over in tennis, rugby, cricket, American football, athletics, basketball and baseball and in every sport that takes itself with a modicum of seriousness and professionalism and it is beyond time that football – the world’s game – followed suit and caught massively up.
Case Study – Why Technology Not Retrospective Action Is Needed
On Friday 2nd December, 2016, Newcastle United had two men wrongly sent off against Nottingham Forest at The City Ground and lost a SKY Bet Championship match 2-1 they would have otherwise won – and still almost did – with only 9 men remaining.
Retrospectively, the red cards handed to The Championship’s best player last season, JonJo Shelvey, and Paul Dummett, were overturned yet what wasn’t overturned was the injustice on the night and the loss of three points.
If not for Rafa Benitez’s brilliant management over the entire season and the fact that Newcastle United were the 21st Premier League team in the wrong division for a year – due largely to decisions like that in The Premier League as the previous year’s most unjustly-treated team – The Magpies could be facing the lottery of the play-offs.
One Newcastle game in particular in 2015/6 – ironically, the derby against Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland side could have done with in-game technology and the club would almost certainly have stayed in The Premier League and be £100M better off.
Instantly on the day of the game thanks to SKY’s cameras with endless replays, which give every armchair viewer a better view of the football matches in question than the referees officiating them, both – all – erroneous decisions could have been reversed.
Newcastle still won The Championship yet didn’t fare as well a year earlier.
While the retrospective punishment of diving cheats via a panel is welcome, its simply not enough and is shutting the door after the horse has bolted and if anything, the 3-man panel should be analysing key decisions as they happen as pundits like Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher do now for SKY and former ref Howard Webb does for BT Sports.
What Retrospective refereeing panels mean is that on any given Super Sunday, a key game or result can still be decided by a deliberate act of cheating.
The Leagues and clubs themselves and more underworld gangs, Mafioso, Chinese criminal betting syndicates and all of the people who benefit from fixing football matches and competitions worldwide can still organise a referee or linesman to look the other way, crucially ‘missing’ a key incident, or pay a star player to cheat and throw a football match.
In a Premier League title-clash or one-off Cup tie, one decision could be crucial to the ultimate destination of prizes and global sponsorship worth millions of pounds in games that hard-working fans are paying good money to see their team’s chance of victory & glory in what should be a true sporting competition on a level playing-field.
One key moment or decision in a football match can swing a competition or title, a career, club or country on an unfairly successful, upward or downward trajectory, rewarding plucky cheats and dodgy managers while robbing the honest, hard-working managers and players of deserved victories, titles, reputations and rightful places in history.
Ask Diego Maradona and the late, great England Manager Sir Bobby Robson and his England players, Gary Lineker to Glenn Hoddle, the Peters Reid, Shilton and Beardsley or Bryan Robson and Chris Waddle who were denied a potential World Cup in 1986.
What would have happened to The Three Lions in the last 30 years if Diego Maradona’s goal been disallowed for deliberate handball? Would England have a winning mentality and multiple World Cups like Germany and Brazil?
Video Assisted Refereeing Cameras on pitch-side could show the truth instantly to the officials – the technology has been used in American Football’s NFL since 1986 – and the cheats instantly punished and fair play restored to the beautiful game over night.
Just like Jeremy Corbyn is sick of the big corporations in England not paying their taxes, football people are sick of the artificially-enchanced ‘big’ clubs – that have grown on the back of bad decisions after bad decision – winning football matches and trophies unfairly.
Its High Time Football Becomes A Meritocracy Once More
Southampton were robbed of a deserved opening goal and a very good chance of their first major trophy since 1976 by such a bad, bias decision in The League Cup Final this season that Saints’ legend Matt Le Tissier could not believe what he was witnessing as per the commentary in this video:
Yet for the vast majority of football fans watching – legions of Man United glory-hunters aside – this was business as usual and an affliction that has affected English football since The Premier League began with its Red Devils’ favouritism.
Specifically regarding the new diving rules, the Old Trafford club has a modern history of play-acting from arch performer of the act – Ashley Young, who was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson to dive, win penalties and swing tight home games where opponents had parked the bus – to occasional, when it mattered, examples from Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, whose dive sadly ended Arsenal’s Invincibles unbeaten run in the most unsporting fashion possible.
Presently, the club has Marcus Rashford whose dive against Swansea recently kept faint hopes of qualification for the multi-million pound Champions League alive via their Premier League finish (hopes since quashed) yet expect the same player to dive if necessary to win the Red Devils the Europa League Final against Ajax which would also mean lucrative Champions League football next season and another trophy.
Sadly for English football, the game’s governing body, The Football Association, and The Premier League rule-makers, the aptly-abbreviated PGMOB – Professional Game Match Officials Board – also have a recent history of murky decision-making if not outright corruption as evidenced by former Referee Mark Halsey’s revelation that he was told to lie about his in-game decision making to a retrospective panel.
Behind-closed-doors, retrospective punishment for diving (or any other act of gross cheating unpunished) rather than transparent instant, game-affecting punishment ultimately means at best, retrospective justice or, in reality, none at all and the message continues that cheats are allowed to, even covertly assisted, to prosper.
Its a short-sighted strategy as the biggest loser of the entire process is the FA’s England team which, picked largely from an artificially-skewed Premier League, quickly meets disaster when faced with a football reality outside of its massaged jurisdiction.