The Video Referee Debate

Like all sports, football finds itself in conflict between tradition and modernisation. On one side, clubs and supporters don’t want technology to encroach on the beautiful game and on the other side no one wants a repeat of some of the disallowed goals we have seen over the years,  such Lampard’s ‘goal’ in the WC against Germany and Roy Carroll’s blunder against Spurs – you can see some of the best disallowed goals here on Kick TV.

La Liga became the centre of the debate this January after Barcelona were denied a goal that would have handed them victory over Betis; although we did batter them for 75 minutes that game! Last month during a France vs. Spain friendly, the video referee was rightly used twice to disallow two illegal goals. The debate about how often the video referee should be used has come to the forefront again.

In many ways football is behind the curve when he comes to using technology to aid refereeing. Cricket, rugby and tennis have all effectively incorporated technology into their games to the extent that consulting the video referee or Hawkeye is now a natural part of top tier matches. After Barcelona dropped points against Real Betis, manager Luis Enrique demanded that La Liga, the only major league in Europe not to use the technology, start using video referees.

First Post reported that Enrique said: “I think we have to differentiate between video refereeing which means re-refereeing many decisions which I am not in favour of… and helping the referee with technology in key moments of the game. A ball over the line or disallowed goal or red card offence… these are the moments where the referees need help and would only lose two or three seconds to check and clarify.”

football soccer pitch

The worry that football supporters have, according to, is that constantly using the video referee could slow down the pace of football. While rugby has very successfully incorporated the technology into the game, there have been complaints from fans and experts that the flow of the game has been lost due to the constant referrals. points to the problem that it could be used for every incident that occurs during a match. Football players are infamous for hounding referees and could demand that the technology is used more often. Yet in the Premier League this hasn’t been the case and the flow of the game continues alongside goal line technology.

While fans may be concerned at the relationship between technology and football on the pitch, they are clearly embracing it off the pitch. Indeed technology has helped broaden the appeal of the sport through successful games ranging from the highly popular FIFA series to online games such as the Pocket Fruity dedicated football game Goal. These games have allowed fans to connect with their favourite sport and introduce new fans through the advances of entertainment technology. Football is a social sport and technology off the pitch has also been used to connect fans through social media. The question now is whether the on pitch technology can match the innovations to create a fairer game.

In the end, football is a competitive game and fans want their teams to win. Disallowed goals, and allowed goals, have caused much anger and despair over the years. The sport’s move to eliminate poor game changing decisions is only a good thing.

After his side lost to Spain due to video refereeing, French manger Didier Deschamps did not criticise the technology. CNN reported that he said: “If it is verified and it is fair, why not use it. It changes our football a little. It is against us today but if we have to go through this it will be the same for everyone. Without it, it would have been different, but it is the evolution of football. That is how it will be.”

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