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Seeing Red? It could be worse...

Manton St Tales

After United's controversial victory - aided by a dubious refereeing call - Paul Marcuccitti warns those pushing for video reviews to be careful what they wish for.

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Sometimes I pick the subject; more often it picks me.

And yes we can’t really avoid talking about the incident that decided yesterday’s match between Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar. (Sure, we could also talk about what happened in the tunnel but let’s not risk being sued just yet.)

But it’s unfortunate. I don’t mind admitting that, even though it’s sometimes necessary, I don’t like writing about referees and their decisions.

There are plenty of incidents in the sport’s history which we’re still arguing about decades later, even those that TV cameras captured from every angle

Which is mostly because many fans that are normally rational become irrational when they talk about match officials. And those who are already irrational become hysterical.

That last paragraph, by the way, also applies to a few of the sport’s scribes. You know, the same ones who make a living out of covering the game and never have to pay for admission but have plenty to say about why some fans might not always turn up.

Fortunately there are some reasonable voices. Last night’s social media bile was beautifully broken up by Fox Sports’ Adam Peacock who tweeted: “Just not a big fan of hammering refs. Sure, be annoyed. The alternative? Skill yourself up and become one. Let us know how you go.”

Oddly enough, yesterday’s decisive incident has convinced me that we’ll be better off without video assistant referees (VARs), which are being trialled after their use was approved last year (by the International Football Association Board which is responsible for the Laws of the Game).

It actually doesn’t matter who’s right; the point is that video evidence isn’t always conclusive

Brisbane’s ‘keeper Michael Theo had possession of the ball and was advancing; Adelaide United’s Dylan McGowan tried to impede him so that the ball couldn’t be played quickly and then copped an elbow in the face from the Roar custodian.

The referee gave the Reds a penalty and sent Theo off.

If a VAR were in use, a review might have determined that, with McGowan infringing first, the correct decision was a free kick to Brisbane.

But then there’s the matter of the red card which, even if Brisbane were given the free kick, could still have been shown to Theo if he was guilty of (as the relevant law would put it) serious foul play or violent conduct.

After watching the replay several times, I’m not convinced. Yet some other observers are sure that the sending off is correct.

And it actually doesn’t matter who’s right; the point is that video evidence isn’t always conclusive.

I can’t agree with anyone who thinks VARs will give us fewer controversies – indeed, as we’ve seen in other sports that review decisions by referees/umpires, they might create more.

They’ll give us delays too. Leave them to offside decisions – probably the only thing they can be applied to quickly and with little debate.

There are plenty of incidents in the sport’s history which we’re still arguing about decades later, even those that television cameras captured from every angle. We might find that all VARs do, after a frustrating wait, is shift the focus from the referee on the pitch to one sitting behind a glass partition.

Sometimes I’m not sure why we’re not more accepting of mistakes, given that they’ve always been part of the sport we became fans of and which, despite its flaws, became wildly popular around the world.

And they happen everywhere, including at the highest levels. Just ask Paris Saint-Germain which wrote a five-page letter to UEFA (Europe’s governing body) to describe the errors made in its recent match against Barcelona.

Barcelona's Neymar is booked by match referee Deniz Aytekin.

Barcelona’s Neymar is booked by match referee Deniz Aytekin.

Sure, we should always look for improvement but, whether you have better referees or video support, there will still be plenty of mistakes.

Besides, many supporters, whether they realise it or not, wouldn’t want perfection. Because nothing would crush one-eyed fans more than taking their favourite scapegoats away.

Paul Marcuccitti is a co-presenter of 5RTI’s Soccer on 531 program which can be heard from 10am on Saturdays.

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