Tim Rich: Ruling body clings to dim view of video technology
Tuesday 01 December 2009
Had a fifth official been standing behind the goal at the Stade de France, he would probably have spotted Thierry Henry's handball. Had it been up to a fourth official with a monitor, the scandal surrounding French qualification for the World Cup would certainly have been avoided.
Sepp Blatter's suggestion that having an assistant referee behind each goal would reduce the number of poor decisions in South Africa is correct. However, had the Fifa president endorsed video technology in the way cricket and rugby have done, they would be eliminated altogether.
Asked to choose between probability and certainty, Blatter still favours an element of doubt. The "additional assistant referees experiment" has not been an unqualified success in the Europa League, in which the Fulham manager, Roy Hodgson, said refereeing standards have been some of the worst he has encountered.
The fifth official's chief and almost only role is to help the referee with decisions in or around the penalty area. When Roma's John Arne Riise was brought down at Craven Cottage last month, the Belgian referee, Paul Allaerts, dismissed Brede Hangeland instead of the real culprit, Stephen Kelly. "The fifth official was just standing there two yards away and he didn't have much to say," said Hangeland. Only when Fulham's players protested that Kelly had been the guilty party was the decision reversed. It may be better to have more eyes but until the retina evolves a capacity for slow-motion replays cameras will always have the edge.
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