Football's governing bodies are well known for being slow on the uptake when it comes to anything other than money, often because fans don't seem to be too keen on changes being made to their game. The recent trial of the video refereeing system was a step in the right direction, as were some of the drastic proposals made recently (including 30 minute halves and a stopping clock). The changes we are starting to see now are things I have been proposing to my friends, loved ones and basically anyone stupid enough to ask for years, so I'm taking this opportunity to suggest, theorise, explore and debate the possible changes to our game to make it even better.
Video referees are the most necessary change, but also the most difficult to implement given the speed with which football is played. There is one easy solution: stop the clock whenever a decision needs to be reviewed. There can be two occasions when a video referral is made: either the referee stops play immediately, or one of the managers requests a time out for a play to be reviewed. Each team would get a maximum number of referrals, say 3 per game, in order to stop them becoming a tactical weapon and all goals would be reviewed automatically. The big thing fans are worried about is the American influence: will all our time-outs become advert breaks? Well, take a look at rugby and cricket. Do they cut away from live action just because a video review is taking place? No, and neither would football.
So, an example: Chelsea are playing Manchester United. In the third minute, Pedro is seemingly tripped in the area and the referee awards a penalty. Jose jumps up and calls time-out, allowing the play to be reviewed. The decision is upheld and Hazard tucks away the penalty. Later in the half, Mata is scythed in half by Matic and the referee awards a free kick. He then calls a time out and requests the video referee take a look at the tackle: should it be yellow or red? The decision is passed back, yellow. This gives the referee time to call medical help on to the pitch for the injured Mata and diffuse any tension bubbling between the players, as well as ensuring that when the decision is made it is the right one and Matic isn't unfairly sent off (or wrongly allowed to remain on the pitch).
In this scenario, a game at the very top of the Premier League watched by millions has lasted a minute longer and the referee has made two very tricky and very important correct decisions. It allows referees peace of mind and managers no excuses, whilst also improving the accuracy and enjoyment of the game. If clear guidelines are set then the video referral system is certainly the most obvious improvement that the game desperately needs. It is unfair that millions of fans and pundits around the world can come to the correct decision at their own pace whilst the referee must decide instantly and finally, with no assistance.
The problems experienced at the Confederations Cup are purely down to a lack of clear guidelines and a serious need for the clock to stop. At the end of the New Zealand vs Mexico game, the entire affair was botched because the teams wanted to get on with the game and the referee had no power by which to tell them that added time would continue until it made up for the time spent waiting for the video referee's decision (which should have included multiple red cards, but didn't because of the rush).
Stopping the clock every time the ball goes out and reducing the game to 30 minute halves, combined with manager's challenges and referee's referrals, will make the video referee an integral and indispensable part of the modern game whilst eliminating the problems of time wasting. This should not even be a discussion, but thanks to the ineffective application by FIFA and the lack of forward planning when it comes to fitting the system into a real game scenario, the detractors from video assistants have been able to make their voices heard over the last month or so. It only takes a couple of tweaks and adjustments to make these the most important changes to football since the dawn of the Premier League.
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