Take any Premier League match and there will often be one or more crucial calls made in a game by the referee that will be incorrect and, sometimes, will sway the final score of the match. Whether it’s the correct or incorrect decision to award a penalty for Liverpool after Micah Richards handled the ball, or a stamp that goes unnoticed by the referee, or a lunge that was correctly or incorrectly penalized with a red card, the catalogue of questionable decisions is a mile long.
Practically every collision and goalmouth incident is scrutinized so closely on television. The incidents are played over and over again, in slowmo and from different camera angles. Oftentimes, if you’re like me, when I first see an incident, my reaction will be to call it one way — either a foul or not a foul, a goal or a not a goal, etc. Then I’ll see a different camera angle, and I’ll agree that my first reaction was a correct one. But then the devils that are those production people will show me a entirely different camera angle and I’ll completely change my mind. This happens so often that I’ve lost count.
For once, in an upcoming high profile football match — take, for example, this Saturday’s early kick-off between Liverpool and Manchester United in the FA Cup — I’d love it if the FA and TV networks took part in an experiment. For one match only, all slowmo and replays will be banned. All we’ll get to see in the match is the game itself, played in real-time without the opportunity to see key incidents replayed.
It would be incredibly frustrating, right? We’d be itching to see that key moment again to second guess whether what we thought we saw indeed actually happened.
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the world of referees. Not aided by any video technology, the referee and his assistants can only make decisions by what they see in real-time. They don’t have the luxury to see it again. For once, we would be on a par with the ref. They would have the advantage of being on the actual pitch, but depending on their position on the pitch compared to our camera angle, the referee and his team wouldn’t always have the best vantage point for seeing incidents.
Maybe then we’d have a greater appreciation of the difficult job that referees have, and how it’s completely unfair that we have so many more advantages over referees of seeing the incidents over and over again on our TV sets while the refereeing teams have nothing.
By the way, I believe Phil Dowd’s decision was a correct one tonight. Having said that, I can see both sides of the argument. When something like that happened tonight, a referee can’t win. If he hadn’t called a penalty, the home crowd would have put him under so much pressure because he didn’t award a penalty when Richards obviously handled the ball. But from City’s perspective, he didn’t have an opportunity to get his hands out of the way. No human can attempt to throw his body and try to block a shot by not using his arms to balance himself, like Richards did. That the ball hit is hand was purely accidental, but like I said before, if Dowd had not awarded a penalty, the fans (and any home fans) would have been baying for his blood.