James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Should the referee be ‘miked-up’ on Sunday?

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Someone, I forget who it was, once said the difference between a footballer and a rugby league player is that one will spend 90 minutes pretending that they’re injured while the other endures 80 trying to convince folk they’re not.

What has this got to do with Sunday’s FA Cup tie between Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest? The answer, to be completely truthful, is not a lot.

But with the magnitude of the occasion likely to provoke plenty of incident, watching last week’s Super League curtainraiser between Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants set me thinking. Mainly about how the 13 man code has used technology and even social media to transform the way its game is officiated.

Now, I make no apologies for the fact I’m not a great fan of retrospective evidence and replays. Or any of the other instruments some folk want football to adopt. Hawk Eye will probably turn out to be the thin end of the wedge.

But rugby league’s decision to let an announcer, stationed next to the video referee, relay why a particular call was made to the crowd is a masterstroke because it eliminates all room for doubt. Not to mention, when the action comes to a natural break, explain the thought process behind the official’s call.

Something which could possibly have prevented Nigel Clough from bursting a blood vessel or two when Ryan Flynn’s appeals for a penalty during the second-half of United’s fourth round proper clash against Fulham were turned down.

Now, not every idea conjured-up by those well-meaning folk at Red Hall is brilliant. The theory behind placing players ‘on report’ for example is inherently flawed because, in the event of a guilty verdict, the wronged team gains no discernible advantage.

Unlike, of course, whoever the perpetrator’s employers are scheduled to meet next. Completely and utterly ridiculous.

But allowing supporters and referees to converse over the internet, (every Tuesday at @RFLReferees in case you were wondering), is absolutely inspired.

Not least because, in football, so many rows, spats and misunderstandings occur due to managers, fans and pundits alike lacking even a basic grasp of their discipline’s laws.