Northern Ireland v Korea Republic

Words William Campbell

THE VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE ENTERS THE FOOTBALL FRAY The future is here. The game will never be the same again. Rumours of football’s demise (as Mark Twain may have said) are rather exaggerated, but have been circulating through the corridors of power for more than 130 years.

Action from a match in 1890. The referee is on the sideline with the top hat and cane!

No doubt the chattering classes (if they existed in 1890) felt the end of the footballing world was nigh when the International Football Association Board approved what had become known as The Irishman’s Notion – the penalty kick brainchild of Milford goalkeeper William McCrum – at the AGM of 1891. A year earlier the proposal championed by IFA secretary John Reid was rejected because, according to the grandees of the FA, it was not necessary as ‘a gentleman would never deliberately kick another gentleman’. How times have changed! crossbars replaced the rope strung between two upright posts. Secondly, and perhaps even more revolutionary, the two umpires (one in each half), who reported to the referee who stood on the sidelines and to whom disputes were referred, moved outside the

pitch to become linesmen and the referee strode on to the pitch to take control of the action. This year, 127 years later, IFAB oversaw another revolution with the approval of the controversial VAR (Video Assistant Referee) scheme, and it’s going to be used in the World Cup Finals in Russia this summer. The idea of using a video referee to sort out controversial decisions has been on the cards for some time. Other sports have been swifter to embrace technological assistance for referees/ umpires. Both rugby codes, cricket, tennis and basketball all use technology of one kind or another. So why not use VARs in football? Naysayers (and that included myself) initially scoffed at the idea. Football is a non-stop, free flowing game without the natural breaks of other sports. Within seconds of a penalty call at one end the ball could be in the net at the other end.


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