Louis Saha: Football should follow rugby's lead and introduce TV replays for the benefit of fans, referees and players

 
Louis Saha
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Rugby players are often more submissive to a referee's authority than footballers (Source: Getty)

As always when rugby’s in the news, conversations about its difference to football dominate sporting debate.

A key contrast that’s been discussed a lot during the World Cup is the way rugby has widely embraced video technology while football just relies upon goal-line incidents.

Why can't football simply re-play video of disputed incidents, then and there, to get an accurate picture of what actually happened? Not only would this disclose the truth, but it’d also be more effective than goal-line technology and less costly than other more complicated high-tech methods. The technology is there - why not use it? Other industries constantly push the tech boundaries and there’s no reason why football shouldn’t be doing the same.

Read more: Rugby World Cup's economic impact likely to be limited

While it’s important to strike a balance between making the right decision and respecting the flow of a match, nobody can argue that TMO hasn’t provided clarity and developed rugby into a better, fairer sport. In contrast, fair play remains a fanciful concept in football, particularly when it comes to the behaviour of players at the highest level.

The ultimate and non-arguable respect for the referee in rugby is something which football could really learn a lot from. In rugby, players have respectful, polite discussions with referees during which they never swear, always address the master of proceedings as ‘sir’, and take a submissive tone.

Increased respect for the man in charge results in there being much less necessity for harsh punishments and brutal suspensions.

The old adage goes that footballers spend 90 minutes pretending to be injured while rugby players spend 80 minutes pretending they're not, and although some of this is down to the nature of the two different sports, football referees have an increasingly difficult task ensuring they're not tricked into making poor decisions by players becoming more adept at ‘cheating’.

In a recent game between Arsenal and Chelsea, Mike Dean fell into this trap when he sent off Arsenal defender Gabriel, who was goaded into petulance by Chelsea's Diego Costa. In fact, it was Costa who deserved a red card and Dean's decision has since been reversed by the FA. Surely video technology would have cleared this up at the time?


Mike Dean's decision to send of Gabriel in a recent Chelsea v Arsenal game was overturned by the FA (Source: Getty)

The lack of respect shown by footballers towards match officials extends beyond simulation. They habitually surround the referee, forcing him to physically retreat. This kind of intimidation is simply not accepted in rugby.

More often than not, this means football headlines are made not by the sport itself but the circus surrounding it.

Read more: Refs’ chief in plea for video

Take Japan's remarkable victory over South Africa for example, arguably the biggest shock and one of the greatest moments in the sport's history. Video technology ensured the result could not be disputed, South Africa's players accepted defeat graciously and Japan's heroes rightly took centre stage. One can wonder if the same would have happened should this have occurred during the football World Cup?

While the introduction of technology would not solve all the issues of trust and respect, or the lack of it, that have built up over the years between fans and the authorities, this would be a first step to enable the people who feel most frustrated by certain decisions to understand the processes and methods which referees go through for each and every decision they take on the pitch.

Louis Saha is a retired Premier League striker with 20 caps for the France national team. He is the co-founder and director of Axis Stars, an online sports platform for professional athletes that aims to promote transparency within the industry.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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