IT WAS a decision that should have been taken a long time ago.
Yesterday, the International Football Association Board gave the go-ahead for a pilot scheme that may lead to the introduction of video playback to allow the immediate analysis of contentious decisions.
The footballing world has dragged its heels on the introduction of this technology. It has been used in rugby for a number of years and the hawkeye instant replay system has become an integral - and hugely entertaining - part of tennis tournaments.
Mistakes by referees have been the bane of football supporters’ lives since the game began. That increasingly sophisticated and detailed filming shows - explicitly - when officials do get things wrong makes a mockery of the sport’s rejection of video playback until now.
Purists argue that the referee’s decision should be final. That’s hardly surprising: any changes to tradition will meet opposition.
But we say this is an important step forward. Any of you who follow the beautiful game will know the frustration of being “robbed”, when a bad decision leads to an unearned penalty that changes the scoreline or a key player is sent off for no good reason.
The use of video playback should put an end to that terrible misery.
Of course, even with access to video, human error means mistakes are sometimes made. We’ve seen that happen in rugby - to Scotland’s costly misfortune last year - but, on balance, this technology has done more than enough good to justify its use.
Perhaps some of a more masochistic persuasion will miss the post match arguments in the pub over decisions made in the heat of play. Perhaps some will complain that the use of video playback interrupts the flow of play. But there are, as far as we can see, more compelling arguments for than against the use of video.
Yesterday’s decision won’t necessarily lead to the introduction of video playback across the sport but we hope the pilot is a success.
There’s a lot riding on football matches, from the financial investment of sponsors to the - far more important - emotional investment of fans.
Anything that makes for fairer games sounds good to us.