Brian Viner: Referees are only human, so let TV help them

Bad decisions by officials in big games debase sport and make calls for technology more urgent

Wales against France in Saturday's semi-final of the rugby World Cup, and Everton v Liverpool in the English Premier League earlier this month, are hardly comparable as sporting encounters. But one fact unites them. The pattern of both matches, and almost certainly their outcomes, were influenced less by the players than by the respective referees, Alain Rolland and Martin Atkinson, who saw fit to brandish early red cards that were undeserved, as in each case the television audience swiftly realised. In the language of the terraces, excising the expletives, both refs made a dreadful rickets.

On closer inspection, there are more parallels than you might think. Atkinson sent off Jack Rodwell with just over an hour remaining of the Merseyside derby; Rolland dismissed Sam Warburton with just over an hour to play at Eden Park. In other words, a massive advantage was handed to the opposition, who duly prevailed.

Moreover, both referees were effectively duped into making their decisions, Atkinson by the egregious play-acting of Liverpool's Luis Suarez, Rolland by the thunderous indignation of Vincent Clerc's team-mates. Neither referee even hesitated before imposing the ultimate punishment available to him, let alone consulted his assistants. Already judge and jury, each man rushed with a little too much relish into the role of executioner.

In truth, Warburton's tackle, unlike Rodwell's, did deserve censure. It should have resulted in the young Welsh captain being sin-binned. But the sending-off not only influenced the result, it also diminished the spectacle, and by extension the entire World Cup. Wales lost narrowly having been, even unfairly reduced to 14 men, manifestly the better, more swashbuckling team. Warburton's red card debased the tournament.

Now, there are those who shrug their shoulders and say that officiating mistakes are part and parcel of sport, always have been and always should be. Referees are only human, goes the argument. But their human fallibility has become more a case for the prosecution than the defence. Clearly, Atkinson at Goodison Park and Rolland at Eden Park were pumping with adrenalin just as the players were, and made their decisions, as Rodwell and Warburton made their tackles, without a cool appraisal of the likely consequences. In a way that's fair enough. There's not much time out there for cool appraising. They are paid to be decisive in the heat of the moment, and they were.

But they were also mistaken, and with such big, big decisions, that shouldn't be allowed to happen, not when you consider the financial implications of winning and losing, to say nothing of the incalculable emotional implications, in these two instances, for the blue half of Merseyside and, more poignantly, the red whole of Wales.

From the sidelines, and the sofa, the solution seems obvious. Wire up every referee to a colleague in front of a TV screen. The ref can consult, if in doubt, but let the other official overturn a seriously wrong decision. If that undermines the authority of the man in the middle, it is a price worth paying.

But in any case, it would bolster officialdom's authority, not weaken it. Warburton's red card would have been reduced to a yellow. Rodwell would have been called back on, instead of the farce of his red card being rescinded by the FA when the three points were long gone. Of course, it won't happen. But, by the bread of heaven, it should.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little