Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

Few sporting events in history have been greeted with such swivel-eyed, table-pounding hysteria as Barcelona's comeback to overturn a 4-0 deficit against poor Paris St-Germain in the Champions League. Brilliant though it was, was it football or just another exercise in multimillionaires cheating? Luis Suárez clearly dived for the fifth goal, and should have been sent off. The sixth was arguably offside too. Either way, a video replay would have changed one or both goals and justice would have been done.

Cricket, tennis, rugby, athletics all have technology to prevent this sort of thing; why not football? The excuse is that it would hold things up and yes, we all like to see the game flow -- but at what cost to its integrity? There are plenty of delays for injuries and goal celebrations anyway. Suárez's opening goal was confirmed by goal-line technology, so why didn't the ref have help with his penalty decisions from the same source? It is indefensible.

By the end I felt very sorry for the ref. Everybody -- players, crowd, family pets watching on TV -- was getting carried away. Which is fine except that the ref was so thoroughly discombobulated, trying to concentrate and be impartial in that inferno.

But the chaos of the Nou Camp could be a thing of the past if the introduction of video assistant referees (VARs) in next season's FA Cup is a success. The precise terms of their use have yet to be worked out, but for me they can't come soon enough.

And we would probably hear less moaning from José Mourinho, whose surliness is beginning to push the dial to 11. At the FA Cup quarter final between his Manchester United and Chelsea he was getting a fair bit of stick, as the home fans exercised their inalienable right to turn their coats with staggering rapidity. For his part, José more than once held up three fingers indicating, we must assume, his title victories as Chelsea manager. …

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