In the match between West Bromwich and Hull City, the header scored by Gareth McAuley’s was awarded by the referee while the close-range strike by Antonio Valencia was ruled out in the match between Manchester United and West Ham. In both situations, it was not clear if the ball crossed the line or not, with the referees unable to make correct decision since they were only able to get a quick glimpse through a mass of players. Both referees were, however, able to use the Goal Decision System (GDS) to make the right decision.
However, these were not the only controversial decisions that happened in 2016. In the case of these two decisions, the correct call was made, but many other incidents led to bad calls by the officials. Poor refereeing was seen in incidences such as when Dean decided to expel Sofiane Feghouli of West Ham early in the game after a challenge on Phil Jones.
After watching the replay, you can clearly see that Dean sees everything but then turns away. When he looks back a few seconds later, he decides to dismiss Feghouli when he sees Jones squirming on the ground. Now, it is still unclear if Dean was influenced by Jones’ acting or by the challenge itself. We will however never know since referees don’t have to give public explanations about their decisions after games.
Sunderland vs Liverpool
Another incident happened in Sunderland’s match against Liverpool when Anthony Taylor decided to give a free kick to Sunderland after a foul on Jermain Defoe which happened on the edge of the visitor’s penalty box even though there was no visible foul. Defoe had simply fallen over. Nonetheless, Sunderland was still awarded a penalty after a supposed handball by Sadio Mane, which allowed Defoe to score a late game equalizer, to the great dismay of those who placed bets through Coral Bookmakers.
Over the past month, Marcos Rojo, a Manchester United defender, was able to avoid two red cards even after two dangerous and blatant two footed challenges. What’s even more surprising is that Leicester’s Jamie Vardy was given a three-match suspension for the exact same offence in his game against Stoke City.
Premier League Officials Under Intense Scrutiny
Referees in the Premier League are facing scrutiny like never before at the moment. And the job of a Premier League referee can be quite an unrewarding one. Their work seems to go unnoticed when they make the right calls, but they get castigated by fans and players alike when they make a mistake. Some are even condemned for trying to steal some of the limelight.
Clattenburg was mocked by his critics for his tattoos displaying the Champions League trophy and Euro 2016 logo which commemorate him officiating over the finals of the two competitions last year. Dean was also criticized for being over dramatic in his actions.
Michael Oliver was reprimanded for getting a haircut that was deemed unprofessional, even though he’s only 31, while Taylor is often accused of being a Manchester United fan because he’s from nearby Altrincham. Nobody seems to buy his story that he used to support a local club that wasn’t part of the league rather than the close two teams.
For the money on offer, the job of a Premier League referee doesn’t seem to offer many benefits. While they dictate most of the big decisions on the field, they are the only ones with a clear view of the action on the field. But millions of fans get to scrutinize their every move through video replays.
And whenever a mistake is made, it is dissected and scrutinized by thousands of prying eyes in slow motion. For instance, Zlatan Ibrahimović’s goal against West Ham while he and two other players were offside show just how limited officials can be. However, unless match officials are given the proper tools to do their job properly, things are going to get worse before they get better.
Is Technology the Answer?
The job of current officials hasn’t changed much in the last couple of years. However, before the advent of social media, fans only had one view of the action. While spectators could still watch replays live, they still did not have the opportunity to scrutinize plays over and over again. Referees also didn’t have to fear witch hunts on social media.
Much of the people who criticize the use of technology by officials worry about replays affecting the flow of the game. However, there was minimal delay when Clattenburg and Dean decided to go to the tapes to see if a goal was valid or not during their recent games. And judging whether Ibrahimović was offside for his goal against West Ham or whether Defoe’s fall was the result of an actual challenge would have taken only a few minutes through a video referee.
Most games now end with referees being accused of wrongdoings or incompetence by players, fans and pundits. In an age where technology is increasingly being implemented across all sports, it would make sense for the Premier League to embrace change and implement video ruling on all controversial games.