Tuesday night’s match between Liverpool and Manchester City was further evidence of something that really irritates me as an armchair sports fan.
There were two instances that Roberto ‘play-your-cards-right’ Mancini has got all hot under the collar about, and it highlights a deficiency in football when compared to some other sports. TV replays. Both incidents happened in the first half, with the first one occurring in Liverpool’s penalty area. A corner from right and two players went for the ball, Dzeko and Adam. A challenge was made, the ball bounced away and the play went on. No one appeals.
30-40 seconds later, Skytv has a replay and when slowed down it appears Adam kicked Dzeko’s foot rather than the ball. Suddenly, the resident expert who never misses a trick, Alan Smith, declares:
‘Ooh, that should’ve been a penalty!’
Well done, Smudger, on the button as usual.
A little later a fierce shot from outside the Man City area and Micah Richards ‘appears’ to put his arms up to stop the ball.
‘Penalty!’, I shout.
The ref thinks the same and blows his whistle. As Richards protests his innocence, the ref can be seen clearly demonstrating he believes Richards threw his arms up to stop the shot.
No comment from Alan ‘hawkeye’ Smith.
The penalty is taken, Gerrard scores and Richards continues his protest. To be fair to him, he is still going at the ref as they all trudge off for half-time, and today in the papers he is still going on.
Another 30-40 seconds after the penalty and again skytv has a replay.
‘Oh, that’s a bit harsh’ declares our resident expert.
‘Not sure that should’ve been given’, the Smudgster continues.
Get to half-time and the three experts in the studio are able to judge this decision after the umpteenth replay, and, quite rightly, they declare it shouldn’t have been a penalty.
But that is the problem, right there. How many of these ‘experts’ called it straight away? I called what I believed to be a penalty, so did the ref. We can’t have been the only two people watching this game that thought so. The ref, who won’t be paid as much as Alan ‘sharp-as-a-button’ Smith, did not have the luxury of a replay and had to make a decision immediately. He did, slow-motion replay says he was wrong.
The ball hit Richards foot and bounced up and hit his arm. You can argue it wouldn’t have hit his arm if it hadn’t been raised. Had the shot been a little higher off the ground, it probably would’ve hit Richards arm full-on, and so you can argue intention. However, you can’t give a penalty for intention. I feel a little sorry for Richards, who obviously feels aggrieved. However, given the same set of circumstances you can easily see how it was given.
My whole argument is about tv pundits who are paid fortunes to comment on what they see on the pitch. If you’re just going to sit there and comment after dozens of replays, well skytv could save themselves a fortune and have a non-ex-professional like me, or millions like me, sitting there. It’s not just in football this happens, you see it in cricket, tennis and rugby where video replays are used. I am often shouting at cricket commentators who wait until the replay to decide whether a player is out. Then they criticise the umpire for getting it wrong, when they couldn’t call it themselves first time round.
But football, and footballers, are a victim of their own ‘one-eyedness’. Footballers appeal about anything. They seem to spend most of their career conning the referee. Is it any wonder refs don’t believe them when they protest their innocence? Video replays would never work in football until they can be proved to be 100% correct, as they will always be used as blame for decisions. In cricket they have used Hawkeye for a few years now, and yet it hasn’t completely removed the poor decisions as the system is not 100% infallible. They have used that system in tennis and, to begin with, it was quite an interesting add-on to a match, especially as the crowd got involved. Now, it’s a complete pain in back-hand as it stops the flow of the game. Players, being cunning little individuals, will use it for ‘tactical’ reviews, such as when they need to slow their opponent’s momentum, or they need to catch a breather.
In cricket it is the same, as teams use up reviews because ‘they might as well, as they have 1 left’. This disrupts the flow of the game. It will achieve exactly the same outcome in football. It’s bad enough you have to pay full price for a 90 minute game when the ball has been in play for just over 60. How long will a game have to go on for, or will we still get fed what we thought was a 90 minute game, with the ball in play for barely 50? I have said this many, many, many times over the past year or so. Why can’t we do something about managers blaming referees for their teams poor performance. How many chances did City create last night? If only Alan Smith was here, he’d tell us. How many chances did they spurn? Yet the referee makes one mistake and the whole game is ruined.
Watch the build-up to Liverpool’s 2nd goal again and you’ll see that City have a throw in. The ball is thrown to Lescott who slices his kick straight into touch again. Then, from the resulting throw-in, Lescott misses a tackle on Kuyt, who then passes the ball into the area and a goal is the result. Lescott makes an error of judgement, two in fact, yet the ref is the one who ‘changed the game’.
Brian Clough used to say ‘it takes a second to score a goal’, yet for some teams it can ruin their whole game. For those who think using technology will stop all the complaining, I’m afraid you don’t understand the psyche of your average footballer or fan, and the technology will need to be 101% correct before it can be taken out of the dock when the blame trial comes around.