Joey Barton: Technology In Football Can Help Us All Win
Technology in football, now that’s a tricky subject. Whenever I hear it debated, there follows a wide range of negative and positive responses.
There are a lot of instances where technology has contributed positively to sport. In the US, the most prominent sports are avid users of technology. All sorts of high-tech aids are available to help referees make the right call. In the NFL for example, video replays are used on a regular basis to help the officials get to the correct decisions. Managers of teams have certain amount of challenges when they feel a decision is incorrect. The official can subsequently use pitchside video booths to watch a replay and check his decision.
I am of the opinion as a modern-day footballer that professional football needs to implement technology… and fast. ‘It slows the game down,’ purists will complain. Maybe – but look at the countless other sports that are equally fast paced and benefit from the use of technology. Tennis, for example, frequently uses Hawk-Eye.
Rugby league, which as any fan knows is a game played at an incredible tempo, uses it. Rugby union equally benefits from the use of technology, as does cricket. All these sports have consistently good referring because of help from technology.
An accusation constantly levelled at footballers is that their attitude towards officials is disgusting at times. I agree. I myself, along with 99.9 per cent of modern pros, have been guilty of not respecting officials. This is not for any other reason than we get angry at the inconsistency of refereeing at times. We’ve all watched games and seen penalties given and players sent off, only to watch another game the same day and the opposite happen. We watch a replay afterwards and think we were to quick to condemn, or missed an incident.
I am not calling into question the ability or integrity of officials. Although it does baffle me that the referees are professional and yet their assistants, people who are equally vital to the outcome of matches, are not. Do they not contribute as much to helping the refs make the right calls as anyone? I am not arguing the game should be stopped every time a referee blows his whistle to signal a foul. That would ruin the game.
What I am proposing, though, is the opportunity for officials to be able to have a second look, to take human error or emotion out of the major incidents that could change the course of a game. Don’t forget the stakes for which the big boys sometimes play. In essence I am looking at penalties, sending-offs and goal-line incidents.
Let’s say you’re watching a televised match on Sunday. In the final minute, with the game poised at 0-0, the referee sees a collision in the box between opposing players. He decides it’s a foul and gives a penalty. The penalty is converted for a 1-0 last-gasp victory. The game restarts and when the final whistle blows the ref is led off the pitch with a police escort. The decision is then the subject of countless debates in pubs, newspapers and offices for the rest of the week.
If the referee in question was able to check his game-changing decision, within seconds of making it via a TV replay, we would get a different outcome; a correct and fairer outcome. For me it would help eradicate human error. This human error can affect the livelihood of many people, not just players.
I am talking about Terry, who has worked in the club shop for eight years and has to be made redundant because the game in question was a relegation decider. Due to no action of his own, a direct consequence of the human error by a referee, he is now unemployed. Drastic, I know, but it can happen. So what if it takes one singular minute? Let’s help officials makes the correct decision. Technology is here to help. Why not embrace it?
The governing bodies’ argument, that because technology cannot be implemented throughout the whole of the industry it is not a viable option, is nonsense. No disrespect to non-professional players, but not many careers are at stake. The Championship play-off final last year, for instance, was labelled the £90m game. To leave it to three men, in real time, in the 21st century, with all this TV coverage around, is mental.
All I want is for the best team on the day to win. Not the luckiest. It might make the game we love seem alien for a few weeks, while these changes are implemented. We will adapt. Like we have for the pass-back rule and countless other changes to the game. We are humans; we are the masters of adaptation. All I ask for as a player, and foremost a football fan, is a consistent, respectful and fairer game. Thus, giving us all a sport we can be proud of the world over.
Follow Joey on Twitter: @Joey7Barton