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"How many referees does it take to screw-in a light bulb...?" and other things that wind me up

In this week’s Roker Ramble: How many referees does it take to watch a television? How to reinvent the blatantly obvious - and get it wrong! And isn't it about time the FA Cup got started up again?

Chile v Germany: Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Four referees on a football pitch should be enough. Apart from the one who can run anywhere and has a whistle, there are the two that are only allowed to run up and down the long outside lines, aren’t allowed a whistle but can have a little flag that they can wave and point to stop the game when it threatens to become exciting. Then they have a spare - the one in the tracksuit - stood in between the two managers to stop them from hitting each other, and who’s job it is to count the substitutes when they come on so we don’t end up with too many people on the pitch.

Chile v Germany: Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Then in European games we have the extra ones that stand by each goal and aren’t allowed to do anything - I have no idea what they do, but it may be checking that the goalkeepers haven’t brought their sandwiches onto the pitch.

And everyone is ‘mic'd-up’; they can all talk to each other whilst they run around, whistle, point, wave, count and check for sandwiches. It’s a good system, but does it work? So far, not so well.

No. 1 (the ref who can run anywhere) can’t be expected to see everything, everywhere at all times. It would be nice if he saw what was happening on the ball along with the rest of the world, but he’s only human. He needs help.

No.’s 2 and 3 run up and down the lines but only look at each other across the pitch. I’m sure there’s nothing in it, and either way it’s none of our business, but they don’t help either.

Mexico v Russia: Group A - FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017
"Do not adjust your television set..."
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

No. 4 is too busy arguing with managers, coaching staff, stewards, cameramen and counting substitutes to notice what’s happening on the pitch, and 5 and 6 were dehumanised at birth and can only communicated telepathically via thought-waves.

So a new method of spotting infringements was needed. One that would be impartial, consistent, all-seeing, and, despite the odds being stacked way against it, luckily, an answer was found. It was one that some of us had already experienced – it was called ‘television’.

To those of us with access, we knew that this was the answer; we could see instantly what was happening all over the pitch – it was like magic, and we tried to tell the referee what he was missing, all the time, but the system didn’t work like that – the referee needed his own ‘television’.

And then he got it. Those clever, forward-thinking people at FIFA decided to have a ‘television’ for the referee for the Confederation Cup no less, and some of us thought that the future had arrived. Not only did he have a television but he had another two assistant video referees to watch it for him – together with – an assistant video assistant referee. So we now have more referees for the game than cast members of ‘Riverdance’, and we were ready to let the future unfold.

And unfold it did, but not as we know it Jim. Because most had seen ‘Video Assistant Referees’ (VAR’s) in action, particularly in rugby, and it’s smart, slick, and the final word in decision making. However, my first experience of the wheels coming off with footballs effort was the Portugal-Chile semi-final when Chile should have had a penalty. Everyone thought it was a penalty – but, no word from the VAR’s. Perhaps they’d gone to the bathroom, or extreme Portuguese supporters had become radicalised, stormed the van and were holding them at gun-point.

Germany v Cameroon: Group B - FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Whatever - I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt but what happened in the final was incomprehensible. For the record, Chile’s Gonzalo Jara elbowed Germany’s Timo Werner full in the face whilst challenging for the ball. You will not see a more blatant, obvious, shout-it-out-loud, ‘send me off ref’, red card in your lifetime.

No. 1 ref – the one who can run anywhere and has the whistle - acted as though he hadn’t seen it. No. 2 (or 3, depending on where you’re standing) - who was running up the line next to where it happened - also acted as though he hadn’t seen it. No. 4 was heavily involved in substitute activity and has been resolved of all culpability.

Then the future happened. Presumably one of the three officials with their feet up watching the box radio’d down to No. 1 to report the infringement - this was it! The game was stopped and we all expected a crisp voice come over the P.A. to instruct No. 1 to send off the Chilean offender.

Not so. No. 1 looked puzzled, obviously trying to concentrate, and then something happened that is without doubt the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. The referee, with play stopped, made his way across to the touchline where a TV had been set up for him – and he watched the incident again, standing by the side of the pitch.

Now, this is the equivalent of buying a caravan just to carry your tent. What is the point? What possible advantage can you gain from using the system in this way? The game was held up for over three minutes, and then the plonka gave a yellow card, so even got the decision wrong.

I mean, if the Video Assistant Referees don’t have a decision making capacity, then the referee may as well be tuned into the Sky coverage because he’ll get just as much information, probably quicker, and he can check the footage on his phone whilst he’s running around missing what’s going on.

The aftermath in the studio was pretty damning from what I gather, but ‘Poldark’ had started by then, so I was out of there. It was called a ‘shambles’ and a ‘laughing stock’, and perhaps the real shame was that it deflected some of the attention from what was an ominously good, very young German side.

Ironically this will be the last Confederation Cup for some time because the next one would have been due to be played in Qatar in 2021, but because of the high summer temperatures the World Cup is going to take place in November and December of 2022, and FIFA feel that they can’t disrupt the domestic leagues two seasons in a row. Way to go FIFA.

Elsewhere, isn’t it about now that Gary Lineker pops up and announces that today’s the day that the FA Cup really begins in earnest and that the cameras are going to be at the kick-off for Little Piddlington One-Legged Wanderers vs Old Outhouse-on-the-Wold Blind Institute? And they’ll interview one of the captains who’s actually a funeral director but once had schoolboy trials at Mansfield and who doesn’t fancy their chances because half the team are still in Prague at the goalkeepers stag. Ah, the magic of the Cup.

And Everton are spending like a drunk in a brothel, meaning the final demise of David Moyes' side – one season earlier and who knows? We could have had even more over the hill, injured, hangers-on.

Ronaldo announced the birth of twins with a surrogate mother in the 'States – you would think that with all his money he could find a proper girlfriend wouldn't you?

And John Terry joined Steve Bruce at Villa. Who needs Newcastle next season?