Would an appeal system work in football?
Sport seems to have a contensious relationship with technology. On one side we want to see atheletes showing their prowess on the field of play without computer aided technology affecting the original constitution of a game, on the other we want to see fair play and good winners and that is where technology helps. One sport where there seems to be a reluctance to use technology is football. In recent years we have seen referees and other offiicials make mistakes where players score offside goals, red cards are given for good tackles and bad tackles have gone unpunished along with the age old problem of has the ball crossed the line or not? Can football learn from other sports, particularly tennis and cricket, by having an appeal system?
Most people I have talked to (in general conversation, don’t think that I have done any research on the matter!) seem to think it would not. There seems to be an issue with the idea of a ball being dead. Systems such as hawkeye for seeing exactly where a ball is, snickometer for checking sounds and hotspot to see if there is a warm patch where a ball has hit could feasible be used (may snickometer and hotspot are a little far fetched for football!) but there is an argument as to when they do this. In tennis and cricket each section of play is pretty quick i.e. one rally or bowl and shot may only a take a few minutes. This means that the ball is dead quickly and an appeal can be made i.e. if one player/team thinks the decision is wrong then they ask for it to be checked, the ref or umpire refers to another official who checks a replay and then feeds back the decision. This can either keep the original decision or overturn the decision. The problem with football is that the game may continue. In the event that a ball has crossed a line and the ref decides it has not then play does not stop and the ball is not dead. The same can be said if a player is brought down in the box but the ref says ‘play on’. Whislt there are times in tennis or cricket when the ball is still live, these are generally few and far between. However, one solution could be the use of free kicks. If a team appeals that the ball has crossed the line and it has not on the video replay then the opposition gain a free kick, if they appeal that is should have been a penalty but the video reply is inconclusive the opposition get a free kick from the position of the penalty claim or if a penalty is awared and the appeal is successful then that team gets a free kick from the penality claim position. Obviously there are more times a free kick would be used but I could be writing all day if I carried on!
The problem here is the use of the appeal as some teams will just appeal to bide more time. This is where I think the tennis system of a of limted number of appeals is useful. If teams have, say, three appeals per match they would need to be careful about when they chose to use them. This in turn may garner more respect for refs, they can be seen as infalable as the system picks up these issues and if a team has been frivolous by using too many appeals at the beginning of a game and then miss a vital decision at the end because they cannot appeal then it is their fault and not the refs. What is clear here is that in a fast paced game like football the decisions would need to be quick and there would need to be clear rules about what happens after the final decision is made. For instance a free kick might not always be the best solution, if ball is out for a throw or not an appeal could be made and if overturned then that team would get a throw. The argument here being that appealing for a throw in might start to make the whole system a little too trivial.
The final peice of the puzzle is who decidies on the appeal. Obviously there is a captain on the pitch and they should be key, if any play can appeal then surely all appeals would be gone in the first ten minutes by irate players who are frustrate by a lack of skill or feel harshly done by for a minor issue. Bringing the manager in may slow down the game and thus using the captain gives them a more important role and makes their job more meaningful.
What is clear is that something needs to be done. Extra eyes on the far end of the pitch has been trialled in the Europa League and seems to have made little difference as those officials seem to not want to make a decision. Goal line technology may only alleviate one issue so an appeal system may be worth trialling. My only other concern is that one thing that makes football so intreaguing to me is the debates over decisions and that feeling of being unjustly disadvantaged. Sometimes that’s all us fans have to keep faith in our teams when they are playing particularly badly!