Should video technology be introduced or should officials be made more accountable?
WELL the first week of the new Premier League season certainly reminded us just how great it is, right? Goals galore, great comebacks, excitement and Manchester United losing. What more could we have wished for?
But for me the bigger issue was the dreadful offside decisions that cost both Southampton and Reading the chance of a point at Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
There is no doubt that had it been a player from the away side, the newly promoted away side I might add, as far offside as both Carlos Tevez and Fernando Torres were when they scored, the goals would not have been given. But the big clubs always seem to get these decisions, especially at home.
FIFA have been calling for the use of goal-line technology to sort out incidents that occur very rarely, but if we are going to use technology for anything - and overall I am against it - then at least lets use it for decisions that happen all the time. Like offsides for example.
The pace of the game these days means it is very difficult for the assistant referees, or linesmen in old money, to keep up with play. That does not excuse the lino in the Chelsea match, however, as it did not need a video replay to tell us that Torres was miles offside when he put Chelsea ahead against Reading.
Decisions like that, even at this early stage of the season, could prove crucial for a club like Reading, where every point is so important. They had played well at Chelsea on Wednesday evening and looked set to earn at least a point with the score at 2-2 going into the last ten minutes. But all their hard work was undone by a dreadful mistake by the assistant, and this should not be allowed to continue.
Southampton suffered a similar fate at City last Sunday. The goal from Tevez may have come early in the match, and at one pint the Saints managed to turn it around to lead 2-1, but it makes it no less important. To be fair to the assistant, on this occasion the call was much tighter and at first look it was touch-and-go, but replays showed Tevez was clearly offside and once again a big club had been given the benefit of a tight call.
So perhaps herein lies the real problem. Perhaps the referees and their assistants can tell what is offside and what is not without the need for video replays. Perhaps they just have an agenda in favour of the big clubs?
I am not suggesting for one minute that the officials are 'bent' in any way, just that perhaps they are 'influenced' by the stature of the club and pressure from the fans. I have heard many former referees speak of the pressure they felt at places like Old Trafford, and of course who would want to endure the wrath of Fergie?
But I don't just blame the officials. The Premier League will do nothing about the injustices bestowed on Southampton and Reading this week. Nothing. The assistants involved will be running the line at a Premier League game this weekend. They will not be suspended. Had these decisions gone against City or Chelsea, or, heaven forbid, United, they would have been relegated to League Two, or worse, without a seconds thought. One rule for one.
So what is the answer? Well personally I would like to see the officials come out in the media and explain these decisions after the match. Let them watch replays of the incidents and explain their thinking. Was their positioning wrong? Did they just did not see it? Whatever the reasons they should have to face the consequences. A fine, a ban, extra tuition. A written apology to the club involved at the very least. But they are unaccountable.
Perhaps the officials themselves would welcome the use of video replays to help them. If so, perhaps we should try it. The money in the game is so great these days that they cannot afford to keep getting it wrong.
If Reading are relegated by one point this season, a point they should have got at Chelsea, then the consequences for them will be huge. The lino will no doubt be sunning himself somewhere next summer without a care in the World while Reading will be suffering the consequences of his mistake. Where is the justice in that?
So a potentially great start to the new season has been slightly tarnished for me. As a fan of a club in the 'Big Four,' I fully expect to see my club benefit from decisions like these throughout the season. But that does not make it okay. I would rather see my team lose fairly than win unfairly. Unless it's against United at Old Trafford or Spurs at White Hart Lane, of course. Then I just want to see us to win.
Sky are to blame for much of what is wrong with the game these days, but they could just offer the solution to one of its biggest problems. Their million different camera angles and the speed at which they can produce replays could mean these offside decisions are called right everytime. And we would all welcome that, wouldn't we?