In the furore surrounding Javier Mascherano’s dismissal (can we get past that now, please?), some interesting comments by Keith Hackett on Sunday morning (part of his column in the Independent) almost went unnoticed – I say almost, and thank Mihir Bose of the BBC for bringing it to the attention of the general public.
Hackett spoke about the need for players to respect referees (for setting a good example, if nothing else), the Ashley Cole incident of Saturday (very interesting comments those), Bennett’s role in that incident or lack thereof, on comments by Sir Alex Ferguson that the likes of Ronaldo needed more protection and most poignantly perhaps, criticism of Fifa / IFAB of sidelining technology despite evidence that it will actually improve matters on the pitch.
I must address Ashley Cole’s behaviour that night and say that where there are reckless challenges with excessive force that endanger the safety of an opponent, it is clearly a red card. But as a referee, you have to see them. On this occasion the referee, Mike Riley, did not have the viewing angle afforded to him.
Cole turning his back on the referee was in my opinion a very clear act of public dissent and belittling of a referee.
The player, having already been shown a yellow card, should have gone. But in terms of the original foul, I say again, Mike Riley did not see the boot going over the top. Afterwards, when he saw it again, I know for a fact he thought Cole should have gone.
Unfortunately, Fifa do not allow restrospective punishments, except in cases of mistaken identity, but it would certainly help.
Retrospective punishment is a touchy issue – the arguments commonly advanced against it smack of stubborn, nay, anal resistance to change rather any serious danger to the game itself. The authority of referees cannot be undermined (there to get things right, surely that takes precedence?), the whole practice would be a waste of time (banning a player for injuring a player is a waste of time because it doesn’t do justice?), you can never be sure even in video replays (that happens only in a limited number of cases, we’re talking about clear mistakes that are made on the pitch) and once it starts, it can never stop (surely it’s not a cocaine addiction and the authorities can set limits to the amount of review allowed?).
Retrospective punishments allow the FA to set the record straight in case the referee doesn’t get it right on the pitch – in that way it is fair to the game, the players AND the fans, a primary responsibility of the FA one would imagine. In a system where referees can review their performances and not be berated in the press for getting it wrong the first time, there is less pressure and consequently, a greater dedication towards ‘getting it right’ without the thought of ‘I need to appear to get things right’ (a subtle but damaging influence in football today).
And opposition players will have less reason to berate the ref – especially since they will be safe in the knowledge that retrospective decisions could set the record straight.
You can’t ban everyone who swears at the ref – that would lead in the likes of Wayne Rooney to be sent off in the first 10 minutes of the game. At the same time, you can’t have people complaining about every decision – it serves no purpose and the petty squabbling only distracts players from the game itself.
Yes, video-based retrospective punishments will cause a new set of problems – but it is nothing that can’t be handled. At the very least we should be willing to try it.
Keith Hackkett on Hawk-eye
When it comes to big matches like the ones we have today, every decision comes under enormous scrutiny by the media and supporters. That is why I am particularly concerned about the recent decision by the International FA Board to stop experiments with goal-line technology. I was very much in favour of the Hawk-Eye system used in tennis and cricket, in which a signal is transmitted to the referee within about half a second.
It’s a great support mechanism and would be a far more accurate decision than what can be achieved with human eyes. There is no rhyme, reason or logic why they have now frozen it because every single one of the four criteria had been met. It’s a kick in the teeth for referees around the world.
All this decision does is keep us where we have been. We will permanently have conflict. I saw the Hawk-Eye experiment in action at Reading a few weeks ago; all the IFAB technical people were there and were wholly supportive to a man.
Any sceptics were converted there and then, which makes the decision to put the whole thing on ice nonsensical.
Football’s biggest enemy, it seems, is a refusal to change. Such an attitude would have caused the downfall of a manager or player years ago, yet we continue to blunder through without so much so as a glimmer of hope that the issues we’ve been discussing for the last few years are any closer to being resolved today than they were 2-4 years ago.
Take the issue of only captains approaching referees – it’s simple, it’s proven to work, and it’s worth a trial at the very minimum – perhaps only in the domestic league, or even a lower-level league. It isn’t difficult to understand or follow, and apart from the initial hesitation (of giving yellow cards to those who complain directly to the ref), there are no obstacles to the proposal.
Except social inertia. And this failure of action hurts football far more than Keano’s tackles, Ferguson’s rants, Rooney’s swearing, Ronaldo’s diving or United’s ticket prices ever will.