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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee