ANOTHER weekend then when referees were in the spotlight – followed by a week of ideas and suggestions on how to improve the situation that sees matches changed by dubious or dodgy calls.
Key decisions made in Perth and Motherwell were different, but both were wrong. And, with that in mind, I honestly think we’ve hit a point where technology and VARs – video assistant referees – should be adopted.
It took football an eternity to accept goal-line technology and now you seriously wonder what all the fuss was about. To my mind, while there is resistance – probably from traditionalists, or the fifth and sixth officials who stand around behind the goals doing little but collect wages – football would benefit from key decisions being made from on high by a VAR.
Would it really slow the game down? In rugby, refs play advantage until he sees fit to stop play or a try is scored. The same could happen in football, where the referee signals that an advantage or an appeal was being considered, while in communication with those watching a replay.
Again, the referee only needs to whistle if, say, a penalty was confirmed. All done in real time.
People see calling on technology as being a negative. But look at cricket or rugby when there is a decision around a wicket or a touchdown. There is drama and a real buzz before a verdict comes.
I reckon football would be the same, with the tension – or apprehension – building until the ref (either on the field or in the stand) makes a definitive call.
Now, just think about how much easier and sensible that would have been in the case of what happened last weekend. As it stands, we don’t have the benefit of instant replays. Instead, what we have are a number of cases where referees have to rescind or reverse decisions made. Great, overturning a red card. Not so great when it cost you the previous game.
Referees make mistake. I know you might not think it, but they are human. But who among them has ever tried to put on a human face?
We know nothing about them, or about what they are thinking at certain times, even after they’ve made a wrong one.
I played more than 200 games in England and, even where you are paying referees £100,000 a year, they are still susceptible to making an absolute mess of things. Maybe what is different, is how they deal with the aftermath compared to Scotland.
Officials deserve the right to make retrospective remarks and observations around how they arrived at a particular judgment. But, equally, they should also feel they can communicate with the players on the field. Too many are robotic in their approach.
Yes, I’m making the call for referees to be seen as personable and approachable. But you would think they don’t want any kind of working relationship on the pitch.
At the weekend, the referees involved, in what were two poor decisions, were Craig Thomson at Perth and Andrew Dallas at Fir Park.
Let me start with Motherwell-Hearts.
I did think Mark McGhee totally contradicted himself, going on about the red card for Carl McHugh (which I thought was the right call), saying it was “ridiculous” then, when it came time for the club to offer up an appeal, they reneged on it.
Have your say by all means, but surely words are just cheap if you don’t back them up with some actions?
The real talker, though, was Dallas’s case of mistaken identity, booking Malaury Martin of Hearts for a trip on ’Well’s Louis Moult. The reality was he was caught accidentally by his team-mate Lionel Ainsworth. That was just a poor call, albeit one where it is more a fundamental rule change that is required rather than the addition of technology.
With St Johnstone-Celtic, Thomson’s award of a penalty, for hand ball against Keith Watson, was a travesty and an utter joke. Celtic probably would have won eventually anyway. But that isn’t the point.
It was a shocking decision from an experienced referee who, for me, guessed.
Both Thomson and Dallas later admitted they had apologised to the aggrieved managers involved, namely St Johnstone’s Tommy Wright and Ian Cathro of Hearts.
What do they say? Sorry? If you get sacked I’ll have a whip round? As little as possible?
But, in 2017, surely supporters deserve to hear the reasons why an official has made a certain call, every bit as much as a manager?
Fans are “customers” who they pay their money. They deserve a reason why their team has suffered and why a referee doesn’t come up to the mark.
I’m all for video, technology, replays and the likes. But let’s get some basics first, like dialogue between those wronged and those who have done them wrong. Referees can’t keep making mistakes, then excuses, and then hide behind archaic regulations.