English referee chief calls for trial usage of video review

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Mike Riley, the outspoken chief of referees for the Premier League, has publicly stated he would support the usage of a limited video review system for league games as heat on referees turns up.

The standard of officiating this season has been astonishingly poor, the most recent event being referee Neil Swarbrick’s wrongful dismissal of West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley. Swarbrick has since apologized for the mistake, and McAuley will likely have his red card rescinded, but often the damage is done in the match.

Following the incident, Riley was emphatic in his support for a form of video review.

“It’s one of the areas that would lend itself to technology,” Riley said. “The game has stopped and there’s time before we restart the game to have a look at something. That would provide the concrete evidence that would get the decision right. I think football as a whole has to look at how we can enhance refereeing performances through the use of technology. We’ve been open-minded to things like the goal-decision system which has made a great difference and a great benefit to referees in the Premier League. We need to see what other technology can be used to get refereeing decisions more accurate.”

Riley still remained reserved about how it will come off, saying it needs to be used before anyone can judge. “We need to test it in live football,” Riley said. “Until we do that, we won’t know the impact on the game. Technology can be helpful but we don’t want to destroy the fabric of the game, the fast-flowing spectacle we all love.”

While many have come out in support of the move, this is the first time anyone notable within the officiating circle has backed the use of video technology.

Personally, I believe video review would be a devastating blow to the game flow – more of a negative than the upside could negate – and think the game can be improved greatly by simply adding referees to remove the pressure one official faces as the lone man on the pitch. But many support the move, and it’s certainly gaining steam.

Looking across other sports, American football was one of the first to add a widely expansive video review system that continues to grow each year. While the lengthy stoppages for reviews were at first jarring, the large amount of clock stoppages that are an intrinsic part of the game helped give referees time to review decisions thoroughly. Cricket, an inherently slow game to begin with, has fought back against video review in pockets but there’s little doubt it’s improved the game when used correctly and efficiently. In soccer, however, there are few – if any – stoppages, and even a two- or three-minute delay would seem like an age-long pause in the flow of the game and could act as a game-changing relief of pressure for a team on the ropes.

Nevertheless, it seems to seriously be gaining a strong backing, and with the shocking display of refereeing in the Premier League and beyond this season, something certainly must be done to lift the enormous weight off official’s shoulders.