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Old 23rd November 2006, 09:49   #1
chriselkins
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Default Video evidence will make blind managers see again

Video evidence will make blind managers see again

Marina Hyde
Thursday November 23, 2006
Guardian

As the calls for video technology to assist referees grow louder, those still unpersuaded of the case might find themselves swayed by the progressive's progressive, Arsène Wenger, who this week demonstrated a profoundly altruistic willingness to resort to self parody in the interests of advancing the cause. "The media are so close to the bench now," the Arsenal manager reasoned. "When the referee makes a decision, the bench checks the television ... the only one in the whole game who has no access to the video and the right picture is the referee. What is even more surprising is that the referee does not want to use it."

It is sort of surprising, isn't it? Yet not half as surprising as the fact that, despite having ready access to this cutting-edge technology, Wenger catches sight of so few controversial incidents involving his players. As we are frequently reminded, one of the enduring sadnesses of the past decade has been that his position in the dug-out condemns him to the kind of restricted view of proceedings you might expect if you paid £5 to stand behind a pillar in the gods of whichever theatre is currently hosting Phantom of the Opera.

Nevertheless, Wenger's spirited assault on his own logic has highlighted an incredibly seductive benefit to the advent of video refereeing. Namely, that it will make it rather less possible for Wenger and his colleagues to stonewall a post-match interviewer by claiming they did not see an incident. In which case, their interrogators might ask, what were you doing in the 45 seconds during which the referee was having a look at the replay? Watching BBC4?

One of the many unappealing sights in English football is a manager being asked to comment on some skulduggery, and trotting out the old line that he did not get a clear view and will examine it when he watches the video. By the time he next meets with the press, he can get away with ignoring all but the most serious instances of foul play. The moment has passed, there is another game to preview, the caravan has moved on.

But there is something about the immediacy of the post-match interview that makes it the best court for holding managers accountable for the actions of their players before the spin doctors descend. "I didn't see it" is football for "Screw you for putting me on the spot", and the removal of this particular weapon from their defensive arsenal would go some way to countering the disingenuity that tarnishes the game.

It may be repetitive to quote Paul Jewell twice in as many weeks, but the Wigan manager's observation on the persecution complex that afflicts so many top managers seems apposite once again. "I am getting fed up with managers moaning and groaning every time they lose," he said. "I've never heard them say they deserved it."

One of the most fascinating elements to the debate about video-assisted refereeing is so many managers' apparent belief that it will always vindicate them, and if you doubt for a single moment the earnestness with which they hold this deluded assumption, recall a Wenger declaration during the 2004-05 season. "Manchester United would be in mid-table," he claimed that January, "if officials had the benefit of video replays."

The point was so palpably absurd that even forelock-tugging Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore felt moved to dismiss it as "nonsensical" but it does reinforce the idea that videoassisted refereeing would deliver much merriment to those of us tiring slightly of the selective amnesia that afflicts so many of those who rise to the top level.

One expects managers to be parti pris, of course, but serial hypocrisy has flourished in a situation in which they effectively regulate themselves, whatever the craven suits of the FA might counter. Last season Sam Allardyce chuntered with self-righteous fury about a Michael Essien dive. Yet less than one year before, he had not simply kept mum about a blatant, penalty-winning dive by his resident charmer El Hadji Diouf, but shaken hands with him delightedly when he had converted it and subsequently told the media that he would scold his players for cheating only when his Premiership colleagues did the same.

Although Torquay this week vowed to sell players for repeated diving, the Gulls' League Two status presumably prevents them having to make good on this pledge. But video-assisted refereeing would remove some of the wriggle-room currently enjoyed by Allardyce and his ilk, and that, surely, would be progress indeed.

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/sport/20...ake_blind.html
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