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Video Killed the Football Star

 article about Video Killed the Football Star
The FAI, the power that runs soccer business in the Republic of Ireland, asked FIFA if they can have an extra place in next years World Cup in South Africa because of the travesty Ireland had to endure when Theirry Henry literally handed the ball to William Gallas. Which lead to the goal that means the Rainbow Nation will be lacking a certain emerald green next summer.

FIFA, for once, have seen sense and rejected the appeal but have said that a full inquiry into the rugby style pass will now take place. And Ireland might get a little trophy or a rosette or some other tacky appeasement that says ‘sorry you won't be there'

Anyone who has seen the incident knows that this is probably one of the most blatant examples of cheating in sport seen in recent times. It's definitely up there with Maradona's Hand of God goal against England in 1986. It could even be on a par with the Steroids scandal that has blighted Major League Baseball for the best part of the last decade, but if FIFA allowed Ireland to play in next years world cup as an extra team, it's going to set a messy and dangerous precedent that just won't work.

For example, there would be an extra team in one of the groups, Meaning that 4 teams would have to play an extra game, giving them a distinct disadvantage as they will be suffering from a lack of rest. Also a 5 team World Cup group is far more difficult to get out of then a 4 team group. Supposing Ireland qualify for the knock-out stages by finishing second in their group, will that now mean that the team finishing 3rd in the group can ask for an extra place in the knock-out rounds because they finished behind a team who shouldn't have been there in the first place?

Cheating isn't nice. But then neither is sport. It brings out the worst side of people, from Football Hooligans trashing town squares to a Spin Bowler caught picking the seam. Everyone is out to gain an advantage, everyone is out to win at any cost. Be honest with yourself, if your national team had just won a vital game to qualify for the World Cup, but cheated to get there would you really care about that if they then went on to lift the trophy? Of course not. And if you were Theirry Henry, would you have stopped the game to confess to your sin or would you have ran off celebrating winning a crucial game with your team-mates? Thought so.

At least Theirry Henry's handball was spontaneous. The Fake Blood Scandal that has rocked Rugby Union this year was a calculated, pre-planned attempt to gain an unfair advantage against the opposition. Harlequins of London were playing Leinster, of Ireland in the Heineken Cup, Rugby's equivalent of the Champions League. Fly Half Nick Evans had gone off injured in the 47th Minute to be replaced by Chris Malone. Later on, Malone was helped off the pitch with an injury of his own. Evans was later allowed to return to play after Tom Williams was seen bleeding from the mouth. As Williams was leaving the pitch, the TV camera's caught him winking at Evans. The substitution was immediately under scrutiny and it transpired that Williams injury was faked, the bleeding caused by a fake-blood capsule concealed in his sock, which when nobody was looking (or so he thought) he popped into his mouth. All he had to do was bite down on it, and voila! An instant blood injury. On you go Nick.

Dean Richards, the Quins director of Rugby, and instigator of this foul play was banned from all rugby for 3 years. Williams was banned for 12 months, but this was reduced to 4 on appeal. Quins were fined £259,000. A Huge amount for Rugby. So what made them do it? It all boils down to the desire to win (they didn't, by the way, Leinster won 5-6).

I hope FIFA realise that Theirry Henry's handball was a spare of the moment thing, and he was merely taking advantage of the situation he found himself in. He handballed. It led to a goal, Ireland are out. If he was caught in the act, he'd have been given the appropriate punishment. A Red Card and a bit of a booing from the Irish contingent in the stadium. He won't get away with what he's done, but once again, a football match has ended where we're talking about an officiating decision.

So, is it time for video replays to be used in Football? Nay, say the purists who are adamant that this will interrupt the flow of the game. But I can't see it interrupting the flow as much as a wild pack of Chelsea defenders crowding the referee in an attempt to bully him into changing his mind.

If a referee is given 60 seconds to look at a reply of a controversial incident, but in those 60 seconds, the matter is totally resolved beyond any doubt, we'll once again have a game where the referee is a largely anonymous character and we leave the stadium talking about the game we saw, the players we watched, the time we had.

I'd like to see FIFA bring this is as soon as possible. Why not trial it in a minor cup competition such as the FA Vase? Football is a different game to the one it was 30 years ago. If your beloved team gets relegated this season because they lost a vital game in which they were denied a penalty which may have led to an equaliser which saved your league status, would you really be complaining if the man in black decided to review the situation before making an informed decision? Or are you happy to see him wave play on and jog away from the situation to a chorus of boos from a hostile crowd, to be spoken about in bars and pubs for decades.

Sports change, they evolve. Rugby League has adopted Video Replays for Try decisions. Cricket has a Video Umpire for Run Outs, the NFL has a system in which coaches can request the umpire reviews the play, at the cost of a time-out should his appeal be unsuccessful. Surely Football cannot go on living in the Dark Ages for much longer, it's a multi-million pound industry these days. It's too important to rely purely on the man in the middle.


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