Fans with Premier League football tickets will know better than most that referee’s are never too far away from controversy. The festive period is always a testing time in the English domestic season and the performance of the referee has been a hot topic at football stadiums across the country recently. Whether it was a dubious decision, harsh red card or late penalty awarded - The Premier League has had it all.
At the end of the day, the man in the middle is only human and will inevitably make mistakes. However, many are now calling for reinforcements to ensure the correct decision is made every time in the top flight. The recent interference of goal-line technology has been a revelation to the game in England, but is it time for video technology to be introduced?
We have seen the Goal Decision System (GDS) used to great effect at the weekend by Mark Clattenburg when awarding a goal for West Bromwich Albion following Gareth McAuley’s header against Hull City. Likewise, the goal line technology intervened to correctly rule out Antonio Valencia’s close range effort for Everton against Southampton.
However, the refereeing decisions from the last few weeks will be remembered for the wrong reasons - with some glaring mistakes and alarming officiating. The tipping point was breached when Mike Dean brandished a straight red card to West Ham United midfielder, Sofiane Feghouli for a strong, but fair challenge on Manchester United’s Phil Jones after 15 minutes on Monday night.
Hammers boss, Slaven Bilic accused Dean of ‘killing’ his team in the match at the London Stadium against United. However, if we are not careful, without the required help and support, match officials could kill the game all together.
The old cliche: “You don’t notice the best referee’s” has never served more prominence - try telling Mike Dean. Fans know more about the referee than ever before and it does not bode well for the future of the English game.
Referee’s are becoming the centre of attention and it appears to be having a detrimental effect. Whether it is Mark Clattenburg’s infamous tattoos, Michael Oliver’s new haircut or Mike Dean’s dodgy facial expressions.
Dean has showed more red cards (5) and awarded the most penalties (10) in the Premier League this season than any other referee. Yes, fans do understand that their decisions cannot please everyone, especially with millions of fans watching around the world and over 50,000 in the stadium with all eyes transfixed on you. Some may say that after numerous replays, slow motion clips, and various angles that we are too quick to criticise the officials. However, what is starkingly obvious is the clear lack of consistency being shown at the top of the game by the referee and his assistants.
Whether it is petty shirt-pulling in the penalty area or two footed tackles, there is plenty of food for thought.
Marcos Rojo twice escaped a red card on two separate occasions in December for dangerous two-footed lunges. Likewise, Ross Barkley was lucky to escape with only a yellow card in a feisty Merseyside derby for a late horror tackle on Jordan Henderson. Yet, even when officials make the correct decision, like awarding a red card to Fernandino for serious foul play against Burnley on Monday, their choices are scrutinised.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was clearly offside, along with two other Manchester United team mates, when he lashed home United’s second goal to seal victory against an aggrieved West Ham United. Furthermore, Anthony Taylor awarded two correct penalty decisions for Sunderland against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light on Monday in their 2-2 draw. However, was the free-kick that led to the second penalty in the 83rd minute a foul on Jermain Defoe in the first place?
A little interference with something as simple as video replays, the life of a Premier League referee will be so much easier and as a result the Premier League will be a fairer competition because of it.
Premier League match officials have developed this arrogance and aloof demeanor which is doing them no favours on the pitch. Perhaps they should be able to speak to the television cameras after the game and explain their decisions, much like players and managers do on a regular basis.
If we are not careful, out beautiful game will fall behind. Other national sports like cricket, rugby and tennis all use video technology when it comes to making a final decision - so why not introduce it at the highest level in football?
Surely it is time for video technology - Referee’s need more help than ever before, sooner rather than later.