Here we are again, people. I know it’s been a while but another howler of a decision by a refereeing crew in England today in a massively important football game has again thrust the issue of video technology onto the front burner again worldwide. Premier League referee Martin Atkinson ruled that Chelsea had scored following a frantic goalmouth scramble to take the lead in their FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley Stadium, London against Tottenham. The fact that Chelsea went on to win the game 5-1 probably let the man and his gormless assistants off the hook. Even so, it was a horrible decision which ranks up there with Frank Lampard’s non-equaliser for England against Germany in last summer’s World Cup in South Africa. Frankly, I’m not surprised at all that it’s happened again.
I have penned several articles on this subject over the last couple of years and generally speaking, I have absolved the referees from blame whilst choosing to rail on the governing authorities such as FIFA. However, what happened today was a clear example of why the game of soccer cannot continue in it’s current form until these mistakes are wiped out. The issue is that you cannot trust refereeing crews to make the correct decision any more. We have all seen instances where it is tough for officials to judge situations just simply because they were unsighted or from the speed at which the game is played, but today’s actions by Atkinson was down to just piss poor officiating. Nothing more nothing less. A total disgrace. Both him and his assistant never saw what happened clearly but the referee chose to award a goal without consultation, and then, when he and his assistant must have realised that they screwed up, failed to make the necessary adjustment. Many fans will say that you can’t reverse a decision. That’s a load of bollocks – no-one is going to get suspended or fined for making the right call in the end. Today, neither Atkinson or anyone else could have seen that ball cross the line, and yet a goal was awarded.
I watched the game today with my eldest son who played soccer more recently than my old bones, and we both agreed that maybe what it will take is a mistake like this in, let’s say, a Champions League Final between Barcelona and Real Madrid and one of these boneheaded decisions to go against Jose Mourinho which leads to the Portuguese maestro to call his players off the field and refuse to play on. I am never usually an advocate for “revolution” and hostility towards authority but it has now gone beyond a joke. Maybe that is what it will take to affect change. I know that FIFA has promised all kinds of new developments in this area, but do we really trust those buffoons in Switzerland to do the right thing ? The game is now achieving clown status with fans around the world who also follow other sports. Here you have the largest spectator sport on the planet being ridiculed for it’s archaic attitudes.
Many fans world wide criticise American sports for it’s lengthy duration of games, and there are other concerns too, but one thing the US has got right is it’s officiating, for the most part. The problem with soccer is that officials do not work together as equals and referees become sole dictator and executioner when it comes to the final outcome, right or wrong. He won’t admit an error and all he gets from his assistant is a dumbass stare and a weak kneed acceptance of the fateful outcome. As for the 4th official, they should just put a red nose and yellow shoes on that guy for all the use he is. His day consists of standing with a lighted plastic board and keeping managers inside their their technical areas. The attempt by UEFA this year to improve European competition games is a joke too, as the two twits they have positioned behind the goals at each end will totally ignore a foul that is feet away from them while bowing to a refereeing decision from someone who is 25 yards away at best, looking at the wrong angle. When we look at US major sports, officials work together far more democratically in order to get the decision correct. It’s not perfect, but it works. If I was Harry Redknapp today, I’d be throwing the furniture around about what happened out on the field, despite his team’s pitiful surrender to a marginally better Chelsea team. It definitely threw Tottenham out of their stride from which they never recovered.
I think the most frustrating part here is that today, following the game, Atkinson admitted he made a bad error. If that was the case, then why didn’t he make the change on the field? Therein lies the real question. Even if at this late stage that video technology is introduced in some form or another, the next hurdle is to instruct the men in the middle to use the damn system when it’s installed. If Atkinson is anything to go by, that could be the hardest battle.