Tommy Lee: Video refs threaten the beauty of footy

Chesterfield vs Walsall - Tommy Lee palms the ball away from the path of Walsall's Bryn Morris - Pic By James Williamson
Chesterfield vs Walsall - Tommy Lee palms the ball away from the path of Walsall's Bryn Morris - Pic By James Williamson
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Turning 30 for a professional footballer can come as a shock to the system.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the big ‘R’ is getting ever closer.

Chesterfield vs Walsall - Tempers flare after Walsall take a 2-1 lead - Pic By James Williamson

Chesterfield vs Walsall - Tempers flare after Walsall take a 2-1 lead - Pic By James Williamson

With that in mind, I recently undertook a degree in sports writing and broadcasting at Staffordshire University in preparation for a career after the gloves have been retired.

Thanks to the Derbyshire Times, I have been given the opportunity to share some of my views on all things Chesterfield and football in general.

What better place to start then, than on everybody’s favourite subject, referees.

Last week, incoming FIFA president, Gianni Infantino announced that video technology will be trialled, to assist officials in making the “key decisions”.

His comments came with the caveat: “We don’t want to spoil the fluidity or the beauty of the game.”

Essentially, we are talking about a video referee.

Of course, technology is already part of our game. Goal-line technology has been an overwhelming success. Introduced to the Premier League in 2013, it gets the job done without affecting the ‘fluidity’ and ‘beauty’ of the action. Therein lies the secret to its success.

The attraction of football comes from its free-flowing, end-to-end nature. Extended pauses in play caused by a video referee, sat in front of a monitor, advising the on-field referee, would threaten the spectacle and should be avoided at all costs.

I shudder at the thought. Players standing in a huddle, waiting for a video ‘ref’ to decide whether a goal should be disallowed or a penalty awarded.

There is no denying, other sports lend themselves to this sort of intervention, but football does not.

Even then, there are no guarantees the correct decision would be reached.

Goal-line technology is ‘black and white’, either the ball crossed the line or it didn’t. The decisions of ‘opinion’ are a different animal altogether.

Turn on the TV on a Saturday evening or open the Sunday paper and we are faced with pundits and referees alike, disagreeing over the ‘key decisions’.

It’s football.

Last weekend, in the Walsall game, we were on the wrong end of a ‘key decision’.

The referee and his assistants decided Dion Donohue deserved a red card.

Having seen the video footage numerous times I believe the decision was very harsh but there is an argument it could’ve gone either way.

Do I believe the referee got it wrong? Possibly.

Do I think a video referee would’ve helped in that situation? No.

Do I accept referees make mistakes? Absolutely.

If we lose the human aspect of refereeing then we are losing the essence of the theatre.

Anything can happen on a Saturday afternoon and it usually does.

Infantino and the like should focus on improving the standard of refereeing in its current guise

Giving referees the option to exercise common sense would be a good place to start.

The introduction of video referees is nothing more than a quick fix and would only serve in stripping on field officials of their responsibilities and ultimately, their authority.

Players are capable of the sublime and the ridiculous so why should we expect anything less from our referees?

The simple answer is, we shouldn’t, especially not at the expense of excitement and entertainment.