Football’s most powerful board, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), will be meeting today, its 131st Annual General Meeting, at Wembley Stadium, London to deliberate on issues to move the game forward.
This body is the only one accredited to change the law in the game. On the agenda include: Using the 4th substitute in extra time; Temporary Dismissals (Sin Bins); denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity; Overall strategy for the development of the Laws of the Game; the role of the captain and debating the results of the Video Assistant Referees Experiment.
But however way you look at this agenda, it must be noted that the greatest challenge that the game faces is that of credibility and the integrity of decisions made by the referees.
The arbiters of the game – the men in black — have been hampered continually with the evolution of the modern football players. The players have become fitter, which means they are faster and have become better actors while referees have to make decisions that can be influenced by emotion or misinterpretation.
While some continue to argue that referees lend the last human touch to a game that is continuously being monetised and has created a strata of haves and have-nots – it must also be argued that the integrity of results would continue to be eroded so much so that the game could begin to lose some of its die-hard fans to other sports that are seen to be better refereed.
In the last two weeks, we have seen referees make mistakes [they are human after all] from England to Italy that have supposedly turned the tide of matches while the calls for video refereeing grow more strident.
Examples of tennis and rugby have been cited, as sports football should copy in the use of video assistance. The truth is the referees need help and what better way than Virtually Assisted Refereeing?
The innovation was tested out at the last FIFA World Club tournament and it helped to adjudicate matters in an expeditious manner. The time it takes players to congregate on referees during a contentious moment is all that would be needed to judge the incident.
IFAB, made up of FIFA and the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, need to do the right thing and fast – give referees the help they need to become better arbiters of the game.