More technology is the solution, not a problem. We need to realise that before it’s too late.
It has taken soccer too long to introduce goal line technology and yet when it finally arrived for the last World Cup it fitted in seamlessly. Now comes the bigger test – the introduction of rugby’s equivalent of the TMO. Without it, the beautiful game is in terminal decline.
Today, you almost have to be reminded that soccer is a contact sport. In the 70s and 80s tougher tackling was the order of the day and a well-executed tackle a thing of beauty. In today’s modern game you cannot touch a player. As a consequence, a contact sport is being ruled by players who are intent on feigning injury and diving with the primary objective of getting a player booked or better still sent off.
This week has reinforced the need for video referees and new rules as to who can approach the referee. These referees are in a unenviable position, trying to figure out what is a dive and what is truly a legal or illegal challenge. Lets look at two games recently, both for big stakes. Manchester United vs Arsenal in the FA Cup and Chelsea vs PSG in the Champions League.
For the United game the behaviour of Di Maria was nothing short of appalling. The referee got it right on each and every decision and Di Maria correctly went for an early bath. A monetary fine for Di Maria is not enough. For Januzaj, who dived, a yellow card is insufficient. If he tried to stay on his feet who know what the outcome might have been. The punishment of yellow must be coupled with an instantaneous punishment for cheating – let’s call a spade a spade here.
There are pre-made solutions in other sports out there already. A prime example being Rugby’s sin bin. If a video ref judges a player to have cheated, a ten minute stint in the bin can ensue. While the referee, Michael Oliver, operated within the law, if players knew of an instant punishment for diving we might momentarily dip down to 5 V 5 but they would soon get the message.
Now to the second example. Oscar season came a month or so too early for the Brazilian of the same name. His ‘injury’ after Ibrahimovic’s tackle spurred a mass protest by his teammates. But he too had his foot high and Zlatan Ibrahimovic tried to get out of the tackle. The right decision should have been two yellow cards. One for Oscar’s acting, within seconds of the sending off he was up and running around. Chelsea’s ploy seemed to work on that occasion but in general their approach did neither them nor the sport any favours.
Then there was John Terry and his brigade hounding the referee. Brings you back to the Roy Keane and United days and poor old Andy D’Urso. That is no longer acceptable. These players are role models up across the world, it’s cheesey but it’s true. Again drawing on our rugby colleagues, only the Captain should talk to the referee and any other party is at the sole discretion of the Ref.
Regretfully, if it takes UEFA as long to introduce such facilities to these much maligned referees as it did to introduce goal line technology, the game could be beyond repair.