The controversial events at Tannadice on Sunday and the ensuing raft of appeals to the SFA had increased the debate on the use of video technology in football and whether referees should be given more assistance in the form of technology in order to get decisions right.
In England, the Premier League recently introduced goal line technology, in order to accurately assess whether a ball has crossed the goal line or not and is done in a virtually instant manner. The cost of introducing such measures in Scotland would appear to be prohibitive, but the use of a video monitor in the technical area – attended to by the 4th official – would provide a cheap and swift method in aiding referees.
Currently, such a practice isn’t sanctioned in the SPFL, but it does beg the question why not. Considering the simple nature of its implementation and the myriad of problems that it would solve on a weekly basis. Opponents of the use of video technology point to one key issue; that not all contentious decisions are clear cut. On Sportscene this past weekend, Pat Nevin and Michael Stewart reviewed every debatable decision from the Dundee United v Celtic Scottish Cup tie and still couldn’t come to a consensus on what was and wasn’t a red card or dive.
Whilst this is an understandable concern, surely it would be better to give referees the option, rather than deny them the method of being able to review a difficult decision. Would it mean a stoppage in play? Of course, but then the match at Tannadice at the weekend was stopped for several minutes as officials tried to determine between themselves what course of action to take. One would imagine that players, fans and managers would accommodate more frequent delays if it meant that each decision was made with as much accuracy as possible. Perhaps even insist on clubs agreeing to a ‘benefit of the doubt’ system, whereby decisions that even multiple replays cannot confirm would be taken on the referees initial ‘on-pitch’ decision.
Scottish football should be at the forefront of this debate. It cannot compete with other leagues in terms of revenue or exposure, but it can position itself as a progressive league in improving football and making it a fairer and more competitive sport. In video replay consultation, the SFA and SPFL have a relatively cheap and immediately implementable method of ensuring that the confusion and resulting fall out of Sunday becomes a thing of the past.