Dodgy refereeing is keeping the PSL race close. Time for high-tech solutions?

2010-02-13 00:00

IF Mamelodi Sundowns are to win the league title, a couple of refereeing decisions will have helped them along the way.

A red card last Sunday against Ajax Cape Town left Sundowns up against 10 men for three-quarters of the game at the Athlone Stadium and in the end contributed handily to a 1-0 win, that has them now just three points behind leaders SuperSport United, and with a game in hand.

But the dismissal of Clayton Daniels was nothing near as beneficial as the breaks the Brazilians earned last Wednesday in their home game against Bloemfontein Celtic.

Television replays showed an offside decision against Celtic in the last 20 minutes and, more particularly, a shot that crossed the line as it hit off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing back out again into play should have been awarded.

Instead both were ruled out and Sundowns, who were flat and uninspiring on the night, got a point that might make all the difference come the end of the Premier Soccer League campaign on March 6.

It again highlights the debate over the use of camera technology and the need for football to move into the modern era.

It is a debate gaining momentum all over the world as contentious decisions continue to cloud the game and more and more people question how much longer the sport can remain credible unless it eliminates the endless human errors.

Football’s universal appeal is its simplicity, the fact a ball, two goals and a bit of space suffices to make up a game. Fifa are desperate to keep it that way, to avoid the game becoming the made-for-television behemoth that so many other sports have become.

Cricket and rugby were also developed on similar foundations, and yet have taken the plunge away from their humble roots. It is laughable to think it has caused any damage to their grassroots ethos.

At the top level, video evidence has added an extra dimension to the enjoyment, entertainment and intrigue. Most importantly, it has given it a new credibility.

Fifa’s other big worry is that consulting video technology will slow down the game at a time when they are endlessly tinkering with ways to try to speed it up.

Admittedly it often takes an indeterminable age in rugby for disputed tries to be ruled on and there is the odd cricket run-out or catching appeal that umpires seem to dither over forever. But to be honest, it is no turn-off. In fact, the suspense is now integral to the game, keeping spectators glued to their seats in the stands or sofas at home.

Fifa were experimenting with a device in the ball that would signal whether it crossed the goal line or not, but that seems to have fizzled out. It sounded pretty naff anyway.

The opportunity to go with the times must be ahead for football, as much as Sepp Blatter and his lieutenants stall. Fifa have gone from a position of “no way” to “we’ll think about” in just a matter of months, thanks to Thierry Henry’s handball, the international outcry and the millions that were decided France’s way by simple inaction.

But what an opportunity they have missed with the upcoming World Cup to introduce some form of technology to at least temper the refereeing errors we are anticipating.

The phrase “human error” does not sit well with the new generation. If the game is to survive at its current zenith, it must embrace what the future is all about — and that is technology.

Sundowns might be happy right now with blind linesmen, but surely the majority of us believe its time to turn on the video.


* Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and editorial director of Mzanzi Football.

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