Let’s go to the video ref: he’s sure to have it all taped

Poor Joey Barton. Now even avuncular Uncle NORMAN GILLER is on his case, though he is waiting for a TV replay

What d’you think of 2012 so far? “Rubbish!” as my dear old mate Eric Morecambe used to say.

Joey Barton and Bradley Johnson get to know one another a little better last weekend. Would a review of the TV replay by match officials have helped sort this out?

For several memorable years I collaborated with Eric on sports comedy columns for the Daily Express and the long-gone magazine Titbits. But even Eric could not have competed with Joey Barton, QPR’s constant companion of controversy, for what is already a contender for the funniest sports statement of the year.

“I wonder how long it is before a football club sues a referee for making a bad decision” he twerpishly Tweeted, before hearing that his appeal against being sent off for allegedly butting Bradley Johnson had been dismissed.

It’s the wrong question. What Barton should have Tweeted is: “How long before a referee sues a player for cheating?”

Did I not see Barton fooling the referee in the very first game of the season when he played an unsavoury part in getting Arsenal debutant Gervinho red carded at Newcastle?

What the people running (I almost said ruining) football must face up to is that referees do not need suing, but they do need help. Even the blunt Barton goes along with this. “There’s too much at stake to not make use of technology,” he argues in his procession of 140-character assassinations of match officials.

The game now is faster than I’ve ever known it. I am an avid Spurs watcher [Ed: No! Really? We’d never have guessed], and under Harry Redknapp they are playing football that is not so much the “Push and Run” of their proud predecessors, but now more “Push and Gallop”.

A referee needs to be like Usain Bolt to keep up with them.

And the technology has long been there to give officials instant support in making sure they get their decisions right.

It was the pioneering JC Thring who posted the first Association Football rules on walls around Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, in the mid-19th century. He would undoubtedly have included written instructions for television to be used to settle disputed decisions had the medium been invented.

The critics who argue that it would cause too long a delay while decisions are being made clearly have no idea of just how quickly replays can be brought to the screen.

I know of what I speak because I have spent hours and hours in television editing suites, and the advances are mind-blowing. When I first started out as a scriptwriter for Eamonn Andrews on This Is Your Life I used to have to write a seven-second intro to set up a video insert, giving the director time to roll it and get the film up on screen.

By the time I was writing scripts for Michael Aspel after he had taken over the Big Red Book from Eamonn, the video inserts came up instantly.

All they need do for the major games is have a television monitor on the touchline, with the fourth official hooked up to the transmission van. He could get an instant replay of any incident and use a radio mic to inform the referee of what would be the correct call.

The only thing that matters is getting the decision right. Tennis, rugby and cricket have comfortably absorbed new technology, but football is still in the dinosaur days.

Football, certainly in the Premier League, has become so fast that referees often cannot keep up with the action.

The technology is there to help them, but the game is run by blinkered people locked in the past. At long last they are going to experiment with goalline technology in Scotland. That has only taken several decades of constant campaigning by newspapers to get that idea past the likes of Septic Bladder.

It would help referees if players would stop playing the con-game, going down without being touched and making theatrical dives in an effort to win a penalty or get a fellow professional sent off. The PFA should take a stronger role and warn their members that this sort of dishonesty will not be tolerated. After Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini, too, started waving around an imaginary red card this week, maybe the League Managers’ Association ought to have a word as well.

Here’s an idea: How about spectators suing players for lack of effort and taking money by false pretences?

I think I’ll Tweet that. Now there’s a novelty (copyright Eric Morecambe, circa 1975).


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One thought on “Let’s go to the video ref: he’s sure to have it all taped

  1. The best part of this article is the comment about the PFA. Why aren’t they doing more to stop all the cheating. I remember Gordon Taylor when he played for Birmingham in the 70’s. A good player who always played the game in the right spirt. I guess I’m a dinosaur to expect the game to be played in that way today.

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