Come on, ref!

The recent controversy surrounding the Benfica v Porto game was not the first, and will certainly not be the last, to affect a football match. Inevitably, the unfortunate culprits are always the referees and linesmen who, a few bribery scandals apart, are only human.

There is a lot of ground to cover, the action is fast and furious and 22 players on one pitch can obscure many an angle. Those who have to make instant decisions are not afforded the luxury of 16 cameras showing incidents from every perspective, close-ups, or endless slow-motion repeats. The time has perhaps come for the modern multi-million euro game to adapt to today’s conditions, accepting the fact that constantly increasing live television coverage demands a move to more fact-based, rather than gut instinct, decision-making.

Even the Wimbledon Championships, loath to accept change, introduced the ‘magic eye’ years ago to assist umpires. American football games are fully ‘wired up’, referees reviewing all situations on video before giving their verdict. The game is now far removed from its amateur beginnings and, like it or not, the time has come for FIFA/UEFA to move onto a more professional plane. Hopefully, Russian linesmen or Maradonna’s ‘hand of God’ will no longer play a decisive part in future showdowns.