Monday, 9 April 2012

The brilliance of Gary Neville’s punditry – and how to stop referees making crap decisions

The fact that international and Premiership match officials don’t use instant video replays to check major decisions - i.e. ones that leads to a goal or penalty being awarded or disallowed, or to a player being sent off or being allowed to stay on the pitch after a potentially dangerous tackle - is mind-bogglingly ludicrous.

Farcically, almost every televised match post-mortem throughout the Premier League season centres on a variety of errors by officials, often caused by players cheating (e.g. blatantly theatrical dives in the penalty area, writhing in mock-agony on the ground after a minor tap on the ankle etc.) The point is, those of us watching at home know better than the ref whether a penalty or a sending off are deserved. That’s deranged. Why not have a second off-pitch referee of watching Sky, who can let the match ref know if he’s about to commit a howler?

After all, technology and third umpires work brilliantly in cricket, and tennis has relied on technology for decades. What’s the problem? Viewers and players live in 2012 – but, given their resources, the officials might as well be refereeing a match in 1912 (with a lot more bad language and cheating than they'd have encountrered back then, I expect).

Its strikes me as utterly daft that the authorities might be about to ban Mario Balotelli, one of Manchester City’s two idiot strikers, for the rest of the season after they’ve reviewed the appalling tacle he committed on the Arsenal player, Alex Song, yesterday – but that no one was allowed to point out to the ref on the pitch at the time that that he’d missed one of the worst fouls of the season.

Being an authoritarian, I can’t stand the sight of referees being besieged by players complaining about a decision or trying to get someone sent off. Why not rule that only the team captain is allowed to query the referee’s decision (and then only in a gentlemanly fashion)? Anyone shrieking and screaming and – unbelievably – pushing the referee should be red-carded instantly – even if it’s the whole team. Again, allowing the officials to use technology would take a lot of heat out of decisions, as it has in tennis and cricket.

I am so bloody sick of players cheating (see above) that anyone adjudged to have tried to gain advantage by pretending to have been fouled, or exaggerating the gravity of a foul, should – after the video evidence has been examined – be banned from football for twelve months. I bet that’d clean up the problem in no time.

I reckon anyone who gets paid between one and five million pounds a year to kick a ball around should be expected to play without gloves or tights or snoods (the only exception would be goalkeepers, who should be allowed to wear gloves). English football – last time I looked – was a man’s game played in a cold country: being able to withstand the elements is all part of the game over here, and should remain so.

Finally, if the BBC want to hold on to Match of the Day, may I make two suggestions? First, it strikes me as ridiculous that Gary Lineker and his panel of pundits are considered such delicate flowers that they can only do either Saturday or Sunday, but not both. Why? Why weren’t Lineker and Hansen present for duty on MOTD2 last night? After all, the two top Premiership teams were in action in vital games – it was probably the day that Manchester United became champions for the 20th time. Were Lineker and Hansen watching at home with their feet up? 

Mind you, for Sky customers, it doesn’t really matter much who the BBC have fronting their football coverage these days, because Sky is playing an absolute blinder. Their use of technology (there it is again) to explain and dissect matches is quite superb. 

I’m a very casual football-watcher, but I’ve learned more from listening to Gary Neville (who, let us remember, is in his first season as part of the Sky presentation team), than I have from listening to dozens of BBC pundits over the years. From the likes of Alan Shearer we tend to learn that certain teams need to score more goals, or that a goalkeeper is “really good” or that a tackle was “really bad”. Gary Neville tells us why teams aren’t scoring, exactly what it is about a goalkeeper that makes him so effective, and why a tackle was actually worse/better than it looked – and he speaks with the knowledge, urgency and authority of someone who was playing at the very highest level of the domestic game until just over a year ago.

A brilliant appointment by Sky – let’s hope that dozy old lot at the BBC ditch the fantastically unfunny “comic” graphics and the fantastically unfunny "comic" second-string MOTD presenter and try to catch up. 

1 comment:

  1. I think the use of goal line technology was blocked last year by FIFA with support from the one of the other British football federations, who were no doubt fearful of losing their individual nation status for World Cup purposes if they opposed Sepp Blatter. UEFA opposes it as well and favours using a fourth official as they do in Champions League matches. But a piece of analysis by the brilliant Sky team showed that on not one occasion had a fourth official intervened in the referee's decision in any Champions League match since their introduction.

    The arguments are firstly that using the available technology would undermine the authority of the referee. You've disposed of that one; nothing undermines his authority as a bunch of angry players protesting about a blatantly wrong decision. The second argument is that it would disrupt the flow of the game. Also balls. In cricket and tennis, disputed calls simply add a small and enjoyable amount to the tension and excitement of the game. Limiting appeals to the technology to two or three each side would solve the problem of flow disruption.

    I had expected Gary Neville to be the usual Shearer-like 'there it was in the back of the net' plonker but he's been a revelation. Excellent post, Mr Gronmark.