It really is time to call in the cameras now

October 23, 2008

There has been a long-running debate about video technology in football and surely the time has now come to assist referees and linesmen with offside decisions.

This week’s Champions League matches featured several howlers. Both of Dimitar Berbatov’s goals for Manchester United against Celtic were shown to be offside by TV replays yet the Belgium linesman kept his flag down.

He then raised his flag for offside against Wayne Rooney when seconds later a replay revealed that Rooney was actually behind the last defender.

It did not get any better on Wednesday when Atletico Madrid hosted Liverpool. Robbie Keane’s goal was marginally offside while Atletico’s Maniche was the victim of a terrible decision when he was denied an equaliser on the hour when he was being played on by at least two Liverpool players.

Yet who would want to be a linesman? They get a split second to make a decision based on several variables, all happening at speed, and some of them out of the field of vision. Call it wrong and they are then castigated by a panel of experts in a television studio. I rarely hear them being lauded for making the correct call.

Following a goal being scored there is a natural break in play. That surely offers plenty of time for a quick re-run of the action to double-check the decision. It is one thing to keep the game moving and avoid long delays but at what cost? Surely UEFA would prefer to avoid high-profile gaffes like we have seen this week which ultimately de-value the product.

True, countless results in the game’s history would have turned out different if the goals were analysed on video. But why keep repeating the mistakes of the past when we have the technology to know that when a goal has been awarded, we are all but certain it was legitimate.

PHOTO: Atletico Madrid’s Simao gestures during their Champions League match against Liverpool in Madrid, Oct. 22, 2008. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez


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I don’t agree at all. I think the controversy adds to the enjoyment, and gives us all more to talk about. I understand what you’re saying but sometimes TV replays are not clear and even chip technology can be wrong.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Hopefully it will stir up some discussion!

Posted by martyn herman | Report as abusive

The only type of technology that could be implemented is goal line technology, to help decide whether the ball was behind the line or not. This is instantaneous and on top of that not a matter of interpretation if done right.

Video replays for offside decisions aren’t useful tools at all though. First of all: you would need to play out every potential offside situation to see whether it results in a goal or not, and then you need to decide whether it was offside or not. And this would seriously disrupt the flow of the game. You can’t just recheck goals that get scored and ignore every other offside call. Plus: cameras distort the perspective and can give a wrong impression of whether a player was offside or not. I’ve seen 3D reconstructions of offside calls, which looked wrong from the camera’s perspective but spot on in the reconstructed version. So, you would need to implement a more complex technology to deal with offside calls. Until someone comes up with such a solution, we’ll have to live with outrageously wrong offside calls. In fact we’ll have to live with them even longer, because FIFA will probably need another 20 years before they allow a proven technology to be used.

Posted by Jan | Report as abusive

Thanks for your response, although I tend to disagree.
I think the only decisions that need to be judged are those that directly result in a goal because, after all, that is the purpose of football…to score a goal.
I think the stakes are too high for a goal to be allowed now if it is clearly offside. TV replays are very quick and the whole thing would take less time than it would to re-start the match in normal circumstances after a goal.

Posted by martyn herman | Report as abusive

I agree that there is nothing more dispiriting than seeing your team go behind to a goal that is offside or having a goal disallowed wrongly when the play is onside. But it would be onerous to have constant review. Perhaps a compromise is to allow teams a set number of appeals on these decisions similar to the system they use in tennis.

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Posted by It really is time to call in the cameras now | Soccer News Info | Report as abusive

Yeah right. There will be another little wave of the debate now because of the new incidents then everything will go on as usual … until the next time. And so on.

For what it’s worth. I also think just important situations would have to be decided by video help. Except that scored goals aren’t the only important situations. There are also the cases when the ref stops play because of a wrong off-side, and the play might have resulted in a goal.
To fix this, I would think the way to go is to change the off-side rule, such that there isn’t an off-side in the first place unless the action results in a goal. This way, only scored goals would have to be checked via video evidence, and this *could* be done without disrupting the game flow. It would even improve the flow, since the majority of present off-sides (right or wrong) wouldn’t be called any more.

Of course, video evidence shouldn’t be limited to this. Every important incident should be checked. I believe it could be done with none or minimal game flow interruption. I’ve written on my site how I think it could work.

Posted by FF | Report as abusive

I believe football is being ruined by the offside rule.The issues discussed will never go away even with video referees. In rugby league in Australia they use both- and at times- no matter what- get it wrong. I think that a leaf should be taken from the hockey rule book as that game does not have offside and the game has sped up and more goals are scored. Football has lost my interest for two reasons,A the offside rule as it is a negative for attack and B i hate watching a game for one and a half hours with no result. The no offside rule can then do away with the two sideline officials.Have a referee at each half and they will get the majority of decisions right.Ps Iam not an Aussie but a kiwi who used to enjoy watching the games on NZ the tickets for games in the UK are ridiculous at 175-195 pounds a game no wonder the majority of fans go to a pub to watch.I’ll do the same tomorrow!

Posted by Bill van Dammen | Report as abusive

I agree. We could do without the off-side rule.

Posted by FF | Report as abusive