Match day four of the latest Premier League season saw the number the of red cards for the campaign double to 11, with West Ham collecting six of them.
After a shambolic performance by the referees during the 2014 – 2015 season, along with managers and players constantly scrutinising performances officials early in the new season, the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) has never been more under the spotlight.
Referees are humans too, and they are put under constant pressure by fan, players and managers, Jose Mourinho told the Mirror: "I will accept mistakes – but not accepting a lot of mistakes."
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This kind of pressure always doesn’t result in positive reinforcement, with referees putting in inconsistent performances week after week.
Liverpool vs West Ham saw Philippe Coutinho and Mark Noble incorrectly sent off. Coutinho was given a second yellow for what seemed like a weak challenge where as Mark Noble was given a straight red card for a challenge that should’ve been punished with a yellow.
Mitrovic, was sent off early against Arsenal for a tackle that was deemed a direct red card by referee Andre Marriner, where as minutes earlier, Sissoko was given a yellow card for a similar tackle on Coquelin.
Ramsey’s goal for the Gunners was incorrectly ruled offside against Liverpool is such another instance of referee inconsistency. Such decisions never fail to spring up the debate regarding football’s lack of use of technology and regularly puts into question the ability of referees to live up to the demand of the modern game.
Technology in football has been in question for almost the last decade. The Premier League was one of the last few leagues out of the major football leagues to introduce Goal Line Technology. They probably felt compelled to give it serious consideration after Frank Lampard’s famous ‘Ghost Goal’ during the 2010 World Cup.
One of the serious arguments against introducing technology into the sport is that it remove with the rawness and intensity the game provides to the players and fans alike. Introducing technology into the sport would also remove the need of linesman and take away more control from the referee reducing the drama aspect from the game.
Advocates for technology feel that with so much at stake on one game, crucial decisions that can decide the outcome shouldn’t be left to the control of human error. Referee decisions assisted with technology will provide for less drama ensuring the rightful team wins. Introducing instant replays into football would help referees make a more informed decision during a game. Football reviews would at best take five to ten seconds for the referee to receive a call on a particular play.
But in a fast paced game like football, ten seconds can make all the difference to crush the momentum of a team. However, keeping in mind the rules of the game, most calls by the referees during a game are not straightforward. Post match analysis by pundits constantly point out the wrong decisions taken by the referees which more often than not affect the outcome of the game.
Did the defender take out the ball first? Was the handball deliberate? Was there any intent?
Currently all these decisions are left to the interpretation of the referee, which is the biggest part of the game. With referees having access to video reviews, the need for interpretation would not exist.
But then again the question of drama and controversy which all football fans love, comes up again. The Premier League has spent a record £870 million, reinforcing now more than ever that money is starting to take over the sport and that football teams first concern is now money, fans need to be reminded that the sport is more than money.
They have to be taken back to why stadiums were able to attract huge audiences in the 70’s and 80’s and that not just trophies and titles but rather it is the ‘moments’ in football that bring us back to the beautiful game over and over again.
Referees provide us with a human aspect to the game, never failing to give us moments of joy and pain, drama and controversy, anger and happiness and taking the control of the game out of their hand might eradicate the passion out of the game.
The debate for the need of technology in the sport is always going to exist. Referees, being humans are always going to make mistakes, there is always the chance for another incorrect sending off or for another undeserving free kick awarded, the only way for the referees to be more relevant than ever to the sport is by developing consistency in their performances which will retain the faith of football’s disciples.