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Refereeing - things have to change - 07/04/2003

Refereeís are human, they make mistakes. Sometimes the effects of their mistakes are minor and donít have any influence on the outcome of the game. This wasnít the case yesterday! Neale Barryís decision to let play continue after Gravesenís challenge on Bernard was incredible, and for me, it could have lost the Championship for Newcastle. By rights he should have also sent off Woodgate Ė but he bottled it. It was a very poor display and the consequences are massive. Thereís talk that Gravesen might be punished on video evidence, but that means very little to Newcastle United as the damage has already been done.

Iíd have taken a draw before the start of the game, although initially Iíd have said a win. When I thought about it, we would still have been in it with a point. Now Iím sure that we canít make up what is effectively a seven-point gap (their goal difference is worth an extra point). I can see both Arsenal and Man Utd dropping six points, but not more than six.

Looking back at the refereeing decision, what frustrates me is that the authorities seem so against the use of technology and TV playbacks. Their main argument appears to be the claim that itíll slow down the game. But thatís a weak argument, after contentious decisions the game is often stopped because the aggrieved players have a go at the ref - in the time taken to calm things down, the fourth official can comfortably view a replay and make the correct decision. It happens in rugby, it happens in cricket, itís time football caught up!

Thereís also another supporting factor in using TV playbacksÖit can calm down heated situations and eradicate dissent! Players can be incensed when decisions go against them Ė but if an incident has been replayed on TV and the decision still goes against them, firstly theyíll know that they themselves must have missed something or got it wrong, and secondly, thereíll be no anger vented at the referee as itíll be the fourth official making the decision. Itíll take the heat off the man in the middle and therefore improve the relationship between players and the referees Ė something the FA have tried to do for decades!!

Another positive can be found when looking at cricket and rugby Ė whenever thereís a decision to be made, whether itís a try or no try in rugby league, or a run out in cricket, a degree of excitement is generated in anticipation of the decision. It effectively becomes part of the game, it in itself adds to the drama of the occasion. Maybe itís time for a greater debate on the subject, I certainly havenít met any fans who are against the introduction of these types of changes, if thereís genuine debate then maybe will bring forward the introduction of technology. Iím sure itís going to happen, itís just a question of time.

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