In The Mixer
One man's opinions on all things football

Most people haven’t attended a refereeing course, but we can only assume that Lesson One covers what to do when a player hits the round thing between the two white posts – or maybe not if Crystal Palace’s recent trip to Bristol City is anything to go by.

It did not take long for the season to witness its first truly calamitous piece of refereeing, or for those in favour of introducing technology to aid officials to re-issue their orders to drag the game into the 21st century.

Neil Warnock is rarely without an opinion following a game, but the Palace manager was justifiably infuriated after watching his team fall victim to a piece of refereeing incompetence that would have tested the patience of a saint, let alone one of football’s perennial wind bags.

Palace’s on-loan striker Freddie Sears thought he had put them ahead against City having slammed the ball into the back of the net only for the referee Rob Shoebridge, after consulting both his assistants, to say he had failed to find the target.

A simple mistake for those who are visually impaired, but sadly for Shoebridge, who has been removed from his post for the next two weeks, the gift of sight is a pre-requisite for a modern football official.

Those in favour of the introduction of technology cite such bizarre incidents as obvious reasons to remove some of the burden away from referees and hand it to a computer or at least a fourth official with the aid of a monitor and a television replay.

The argument is often put forward, usually by those who have been wronged by some refereeing injustice, with incredulity as if having Hawk-Eye monitoring the goal-line is part of the natural progression of human history.

“We can put a man on the moon,” grumbled Warnock, “but we can’t have cameras on the goal posts.”

Of course the Palace manager has a point, but he is also perhaps missing one, which those who promote the ever-expanding use of technology often neglect.

Unbeknown to the Palace boss, a giant leap for mankind has been made in this field. But the question is not whether we could use all manner of devices to help referees but whether we should? And whether the introduction of even limited technology would be the beginning of an insidious invasion of gadgetry and replays that leads to the slow destruction of the beautiful game?

On the surface no one would object to some form of device that could tell if the ball had crossed the line, providing the decision was almost immediate. You would not want the intervening moments to be punctuated by a game changing event such as a sending off, an injury or a goal at the other end.

But what of other decisions: offsides for example – should controversial goals where a player may have just strayed behind the last defender before finding the back of the net be referred to the fourth official to view again on the monitor?

And should the referral be the decision of the referee or the team who feel they have been wronged? Imagine the fuss if a ref refused to refer a decision and it later turned out to be wrong. Anyone who thinks this sort of technology would clean up the game is likely to be disappointed.

This type of pressure on referees would inevitably result in players being the ones who decided if the video was going to be called into play, and the unseemly haranguing of officials would become more and more commonplace. You can bet your boots, a gaggle of players would gather round the ref every time a goal was scored demanding it be referred to the fourth official in the hope the video would unearth some previously unseen infringement.

And what about incidents that are not objective matters of fact? If we accept that offsides should be referred to a video arbiter, the next step will surely be penalty decisions, serious fouls, or violent conduct.

The obvious answer is that you must draw the line somewhere, to avoid the game degenerating into a long and drawn out affair, but the question is where do you rake that line in the sand?

Many other sports of course successfully manage to make use of video technology to the benefit of the game, but perhaps none are similar enough to provide a model which football could successfully employ.

Rugby is perhaps the nearest in structure and the one from which football could learn the most. Officials refer matters to video referees with questions that return to objective matters of fact such as whether or not a player has managed to touch the ball down over the try line.

Football referees could conceivably do the same. So rather than refer a penalty decision or a foul to a video referee, they could ask a question such as did the defender get a touch on the ball, or did the ball make contact with his hand.

This would seem to make a lot more sense than a system such as that in tennis where opposing players can each stop play three times to challenge a decision. If applied to football, this could easily lead to abuse with unscrupulous captains choosing to arrest their opponents in full flow at opportune moments, while waiting for a break in play to make a challenge could result in the game carrying on for some minutes before the action was recalled.

The introduction of technology into football is perhaps not inevitable, and certainly not while staunch opponent Michel Platini remains at the Uefa helm, but it becomes more and more likely with every passing piece of incompetence from officials.

Good intentions are never enough to justify any change in the rules, with football being the mega-money industry it is, the application of technology into the game needs to be carefully thought through.

And perhaps the first scientific experiment the game’s governing body could undertake should be a simple eye test for referees – first up Rob Shoebridge?


A Liverpool legend once sang money cant’t buy you love, but there is one man on Merseyside who would probably disagree.

As Liverpool prepare to face Stoke at Anfield on Wednesday, looking to put their first Premier League points on the board in the new campaign, manager Rafa Benitez has managed to fit in a spot of bargain basement shopping to fill a gaping hole in the Reds defence.

European journeyman Sotiris Kyrgiakos is likely to be recruited at a cost of around £2 million and boasts a CV that includes Rangers, Panathinaikos and Eintracht Frankfurt – hardly a collection to set the pulses racing of expectant Reds fans.

The arrival of the Greek international will almost certainly come too late to prevent Liverpool fielding 18-year-old Spaniard Daniel Ayala – who looked hopelessly out of his depth in last season’s FA Youth Cup final mauling by Arsenal - in the heart of their defence against a physically demanding Potters side.

With Martin Skrtel struggling to recover from a jaw injury sustained against Tottenham at the weekend and Daniel Agger back on the treatment table – a home from home for the Dane – the lack of depth in Benitez’s current squad has been crudely exposed with the season barely begun.

Hull’s Michael Turner and Wednesday’s opponent Ryan Shawcross are both seemingly out of reach, leaving Benitez to turn his attention to a player who is unlikely to have been top of his shopping list when the reliable Sami Hyypia first announced he would be leaving Liverpool to play out his career in Germany.

The Liverpool manager, who was reportedly promised £20 million on top of anything he raised in player sales when he signed his new contract, is currently sitting on an £8 million profit for his summer trading to date. The departures of Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastien Leto, Jack Hobbs and Paul Anderson have generated around £40 million, while Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani have cost the Reds in the region of £32 million.

The Spaniard, who is never shy in volunteering an opinion, has so far refrained from criticising co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks for failing to make funds available, but should The Reds fail to pick up maximum points at Anfield on Wednesday, we can expect him to bite his tongue no longer.

Benitez has a history of making principled stands that have brought his tenure at his previous clubs to unseemly premature ends.

He walked out of Real Madrid, where he coached the youth team, following a dispute with the president, he quit Extramadura for the same reason, and he famously left Valencia claiming promises had been broken over transfer policy – he wanted a sofa and they bought him a lampshade.

Kyrgiakos will not enjoy the analogy, for he has been scouted in football’s lighting department rather than its more luxurious soft furnishings section. And as guaranteed as a sale at DFS, the Americans are playing with fire and risking not only the wrath of their manager but also his future at the club.

The Reds looked dangerously short on creativity in their season opener against Tottenham, with only the late introduction of Yossi Benayoun providing any penetrative spark.

But long-term Benitez target and Valencia playmaker David Silva is unlikely to be winging his way to Anfield despite reports claiming the Liverpool manager had all but secured a deal only to be told the money was not there by the two men guarding the purse strings.

Results will dictate whether or not Benitez directs his ire at his employers or decides to quietly make-do with the players at his disposal. But should he decide the current financial state of the club is preventing him from doing his job, he may just decide he would be better off elsewhere.