Chris Holt Column: Rugby shows TMOs are just too slow for football

Chelsea's Diego Costa and Arsenal's Gabriel exchange words at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea's Diego Costa and Arsenal's Gabriel exchange words at Stamford Bridge
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In the wake of Diego Costa’s misdemeanours last Saturday lunchtime during Chelsea’s win over Arsenal, in among the fall-out was the call among some on social media to have a video referee look into incidents which may have been missed by the four officials assigned to keep check on what’s happening on the field.

In case you missed it, Costa was seen in replays flinging his arms around like a broken windmill and catching Gunners centre-back Laurent Koscielny on the face.

The Brazilian then ended up getting into a scrap with compatriot Gabriel, before winding up the Arsenal defender so much that the latter was sent off for a petulant kick out.

Had the Chelsea striker’s initial striking out been seen by the officials then he’d have been off the pitch before any of the unsavoury scenes between he and Gabriel unfolded.

When these sorts of incidents occur, or for that matter any that pass the officials by, inevitably there is a clamour for decisions to be taken away from the man in the middle and sent upstairs to a man in a box watching on TV and pointing out what actually happened.

Normally, I’m all for further technology being brought into football. The introduction of ‘Hawkeye’ on the goalline has been a success, removing any doubt about whether or not a goal has been scored.

But it’s instantaneous, and that brings us to the crux of the point.

The night before the incident, about 15 miles away, England took on Fiji at Twickenham in the host nations’ Rugby World Cup opener.

And arguably the biggest talking point from that game wasn’t the performance of Stuart Lancaster’s side, but that of referee Jaco Peyper.

It wasn’t that Peyper necessarily did anything wrong, but the fact that the capital curtain-raiser lasted 100 minutes due to the South African’s all-too-often calling on the Television Match Official (TMO) meant that a game that has prided itself in becoming quicker, with the ball in play more than ever before, was beginning to appear more akin to American Football.

Angle after angle after angle was pored over, each one greeted with a cheer from the crowd whether the potential discrepancy at hand was clear or not.

On a night when there was something of a carnival atmosphere given the match took place following the opening ceremony, the referee could possibly, just about, get away with this. But if it carries on throughout the tournament and into the edgier affairs of the knock out stages, then the World Cup will become a major turn-off.

Ultimately in going to the TMO, the correct decision is being made and that’s the most important factor really, but it doesn’t negate the sense of frustration at waiting around while someone else watches telly.

Do we really want that in football?

The Costa incident at the Emirates, isn’t the best example to use in comparison, as it would have taken merely seconds to judge that he raised his hands and whacked Koscielny.

But there are less clean-cut examples in football that could go to a video referee - see Costa’s ‘stamping’ on Martin Skrtl and Emre Can in Chelsea’s Capital One Cup match against Liverpool in January in which the Brazilian was retrospectively punished for the latter. You can bet that the FA’s disciplinary committee didn’t take just a few minutes before reaching their decision there.

And what about the fact that Saturdays and Sundays are spent watching considered pundits argue with each other over whether or not a referee got a decision right. How long would it take a TMO to make the correct call?

So while I welcome more technological help for referees, this is just not worth it.

Football is now played at a blinding pace. It is exciting and enthralling and generally, there are very few occasions where more than a few minutes a half are added because of breaks in play.

A TMO would make the game disjointed and let’s be honest, football fans are a lot less patient than their rugby-watching counterparts.