Six ways Sepp Blatter’s TV referral system will go horribly wrong

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Originally written for Football Vita… FIFA’s head honcho has spoken: TV replays for dodgy decisions will be trialled as early as next year

Okay it’s not really ‘a system’ yet. Blatter is being deliberately vague on this one as he knows there is serious potential to put his foot in the proverbial doodee. But from the abstract outline he hath so far proffered we can be certain of three things: managers will be allowed to challenge two refereeing decisions per match; each challenge will only be answered when play has stopped; after which point a TV replay managed by Sky will be shown to the referee, who may want to change his mind about a decision he made.

“Makes perfect sense,” I hear you say, “It’s about time football stepped out of the dark ages.”

No. It’s all going to go horribly, horribly wrong, starting with the unsuspecting Under 20’s World Cup in New Zealand next year, before slowly seeping through every vein of what FIFA sickeningly loves to call ‘the footballing family’ and systematically destroying everything that makes football interesting. Yeah, you heard.

Managers won’t be interesting anymore

Watching the dramatic behaviour of football managers on the touchline is a simple joy. The flashing of devilish glares, the flaring of nostrils, the furious, furious chewing of gum… and that’s just when they’re managing to keep their cool. Seeing Jose Mourinho go ape-s**t when Howard Webb gives Manchester Utd another dodgy penalty, witnessing that desperate floundering as he realises that he is the subject of a grave injustice that he can do absolutely nothing about – well, you’ll never get to see that again. Under a TV referral system there is little incentive for the amateur dramatics seen today; why get angry and risk being sent to the stands when you can just watch the replay and overturn the decision? Managers will become metronomic drones, enslaved to the TV replay, quietly contemplating reviewing an innocuous yellow card rather than storming up to the third referee and threatening to stick his whistle where the sun doesn’t shine.

Your rubbish team will no longer be saved by awful decisions

If your team is rubbish, you best ready yourself for a long vigil in the era of the referral: a football match that cannot hinge upon the ability of one supremely well-trained man in a yellow shirt to make one supremely idiotic decision is a football match in which the odds are even more heavily stacked in favour of the team with the best players. And let’s face it – most of us support the teams who wouldn’t stand a chance of beating football caliphates like Manchester City or PSG without the sweet turbulence of lady luck. For football’s minnows, victory over clubs like these by way of an unfair decision isn’t just selfish indulgence, or even wilful ignorance. It’s a victory of karma over evil, romanticism over business. It’s righteous justice against the bastards with all of the money – and if your team loses because of a rubbish referee, so what? They lose every week anyway.

Fans will cease to call the referee a w*nker

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What I meant to say is that fans will continue to abuse referees, just even worse than before. Calling the referee a “w*nker” is a time-honoured tradition in football, one that unites football fans of all creeds. It’s a chant cherished by everyone in the stands and has probably even come to be appreciated by the men in the middle too, as a form of strange, unavoidable ritual that you suffer for the thing you love – like changing your child’s nappy. TV referral will herald the death of this chant. In its place will spring up myriad vicious anti-referee anthems of much greater evil. Just think, when idiotic decisions are overturned, referees will have to run back out into a stadium of ecstatic abuse; it’s much easier to ignore taunting when it emanates from a bitter heart – but when the bully is taunting you with gleeful abandon… that’s when the blood really starts to boil. Imagine the emotional wrecks we’ll be left with by the end of just one season of TV referral, referees shell-shocked and slow tortured by having to admit week-in week-out that they did something stupid in front of tens of thousands of baying partisans. #PrayforClattenburg

Dirty players will become extinct, like fat goalkeepers

Roy Keane, Nigel De Jong, Vinnie Jones, Ryan Shawcross (okay, maybe we could all live without him)… these are the kind of players who keep the poncey, technically-blessed dwarves with silly football boots in check. They are the levellers. Where there is god-given talent, there is god-given grit, the divine message being that one shouldn’t get too carried away with their own brilliance. Ponce about too much and god gonna’ cut you down, like Icarus, but with studs instead of sun. These players will disappear, their levelling qualities now surplus to the requirements of managers who may find them too much of a risk to include in a world where every sly elbow and stray stud could be picked up by their opposite number and reviewed. Just as fat goalkeepers (picked in olden times because they blocked as much of the goal as possible) were slowly phased out by agile cats with gloves, the levellers will be replaced by an all together less interesting bunch of meh-n.

Rupert Murdoch will have ultimate control over contentious decisions

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Important part of Blatter’s announcement you may have missed: “There must be a television monitor but by the television company and not by another referee.” Essentially, ol’ Sepp is saying that the TV company will have complete control over the replay that is shown to referees and managers when a referral is made. Sky’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, whose own mother even thinks is a toothless snake, would theoretically be in charge of that video for most Premier League matches. Never mind the potential for doctoring replays to influence the referee’s review of the decision (not showing certain camera angles, speeding up footage etc.), what about the latency for the subliminal indoctrination of the working classes? “This is your Sky-powered TV Referral System, sponsored by Phone-Hacking Is Completely Alright, Stop Being Such a Whiney Serf And Watch The Football'”

The magic of football will be lost

Okay, a serious point. About magic. Which goes: Much of football’s beauty stems from the fact that it is a game played with virtually the same equipment, no matter which level it is being played at. Every new technological gimmick is a step away from the sheer joy of kicking a ball around in a park amidst Sommeish levels of dog crap on a Tuesday evening after school. More than anything else, TV referral is an admission, right from the top of the game, that football is no longer a game. It’s a business – and in a successful business there can be no mistakes, no margin for error. In a business there is No Magic Allowed.

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