Vanishing referee spray and GLT – the tip of the iceberg?

The introduction of vanishing referee spray (or as is also known – “shaving foam”) at the World Cup in Brazil recently could be the thin end of the wedge as far as technology and other “aides” for referees are concerned. While it was greeted with a fair amount of scepticism by some, its use proved to be well justified.

For the uninitiated, it was a canister of foam used by the referee to demarcate where the ball was to be placed at the taking of a free kick. It was also used to indicate where the defensive wall was to stand. All of this to ensure that the law was complied with; in other words that defensive players were no closer than 9.15 meters (10 yds) from the ball at the taking of a free kick.

This was used exclusively around the penalty area and not in any other part of the field of play.

Why is it necessary to have this foam in the first place? Clearly the answer is that the players cannot be trusted to retreat the required distance from the ball at the taking of a free kick, or that the offended team won’t move the ball forward when the referee’s back is turned.

Personally, I feel there is a sad lack of trust between referees and players in general.

The fact that more and more technological gadgets are required to help match officials control a game is a sad indictment of the people involved (excluding match officials) to the level that some will stoop in order to achieve that all important win for their team and/or country.

GLT was also officially “born” in Rio and although it wasn’t required on too many occasions, it nevertheless proved its worth on more than one occasion.

  • So where to from here?
  • How many more pieces technology could be introduced?
  • How much more is needed for everyone to be happy with the referee’s decision?

The wheels of “change” at FIFA are very slow which means that additional helpful technology will not be rolled out anytime soon, making the job of the referee all the more difficult.

We now have cameras on every single player and match official on the field of play. There is super slow motion action replays from several different angles and sometimes amplified to the most minute detail.

How many times during the World Cup did we see on television the offside line drawn across the field of play and so-called “experts” debating as to whether a player had a hand or and arm, or a foot in front of the line? The commentators and pundits couldn’t even agree at times, what chance has the referee got?

The armchair referees at home, no doubt, had all the answers, and the discussions and arguments in the pubs and bars continued long after the game was over.

In cricket and tennis they have the “hawkeye” system, which is of benefit to the match officials in those sports. There, there is a limited number of appeals and the captain/player must decide whether and when to use them.

I believe that more “gadgets” like I’ve just mentioned need to be brought in to assist the match officials in making their decision. The technological advance of television cameras and the work they do has to be offset by the assistance afforded referees.

It’s important that the correct decision is arrived at so that “fair play” can not only be done, but be seen to be done. This I feel will make the job of the already under pressure referee and his assistants a little easier.

Sure there will be those who will say that it won’t be available in a schoolboy/girl game on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, but that’s the case with most things.

Happy Whistling!

Categories: General

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