In the light of the Football Association (FA) recent disciplinary decisions, questions are now being asked if additional rules are required for how, when and where video evidence will be considered applicable. To refresh your memories, the FA decided to reverse the 3-match suspension that comes with Gabriel Paulista's red card in the Arsenal vs Chelsea game over the weekend, and in addition they chose to ban Diego Costa for his violent conduct in another fracas involving him and Laurent Koscielny (scroll to the bottom of this piece for more information).
Football writer Gabriele Marcotti has raised some very pertinent observations regarding these decisions taken by the FA - click here to read his very informative article. In summary, the FA has new rules this season regarding the video replay, the key of which is that clubs are now allowed additional appealing rights. Teams can now contest both the legitimacy of a refereeing decision, as well as the extent of the punishment handed down.
For years, you could only appeal in situations in which the referee made a technical error -- like sending off the wrong guy -- or when an incident was not seen by the match officials, like a punch or stamp off the ball. Now, clubs have more latitude to appeal, including situations that were obviously seen by the official.
Arsenal's appeal was built on a piece of evidence that the common man has little or no awareness of. Most Premier League games have 24 world-feed cameras on the day, but the actual number is dependent on the packages that the Premier League offers rights holders.
If you own the rights, you not only get access to the "world feed" -- the pictures everybody gets, with different camera angles -- but you can also arrange to have an additional cameraman and reporter at pitchside. These are the folks who might talk into the camera before and after the game, do post-match interviews, film the crowd and so on.
An ESPN Brasil cameraman actually had the best angle of the kick out at Costa by Gabriel, and that replay showed little or no contact. However, other clubs that do not have the international draw that these two clubs have are at a disadvantage. How does the FA plan to redress that balance?
Should Everton contract out for a cameraman at (for example) Chelsea games preceding the return leg at Stamford Bridge to see if we can get video evidence to get Diego Costa suspended for the match?
There have been examples from the past where video like this has been used by one party or another to gain an advantage. Marcotti references two situations from the not-too distant past
When Italy played Denmark at Euro 2004, a Danish broadcaster requested an additional camera position because they wanted to do a tactical piece on Christian Poulsen's man-marking of Francesco Totti. That camera remained on Poulsen and Totti for the entire game. And it caught Totti spitting at Poulsen off the ball, an act that later got him a three-game ban.
Another example came at the 2006 World Cup, shortly after Germany eliminated Argentina on penalty kicks. A brawl ensued between the two teams. The Italian broadcaster Sky Italia had a pitchside camera that captured German midfielder Torsten Frings appearing to punch Argentine forward Julio Cruz. That footage wasn't filmed by any of FIFA's world-feed cameras but Sky Italia gave it plenty of airtime. FIFA admitted it as evidence and Frings, a key figure in Jurgen Klinsmann's midfield, was suspended for the semifinal, which happened to be against ... Italy.
Everton fans will remember that Roberto Martinez chose not to appeal Kevin Mirallas' late red card against Swansea City over the weekend. Martinez viewed the camera angles made available to him after the game, and decided that the tackle looked pretty bad from what he could see, and that an appeal would not be worthwhile.
"We were really disappointed with the decision. The truth was it was his first challenge, his first action in the game, and it looks worse than it actually is.
"Kevin is never looking at the opposing player and there is never any intent."
"It's a harsh red card. [But] from that, to be able to appeal and get the decision overturned is difficult. I don't think we have a chance to do that. I just feel the red card was very harsh.
"Understanding how the system works, I don't think we have got a chance to get it overturned so we need to feel hurt with the decision and support Kevin.
"He was just over-keen to win the ball and nothing else. It wasn't reckless or dangerous."
- Roberto Martinez
And then here comes the kicker (pardon the pun) -
You could take the argument even further. If the FA will consider evidence like this, would they consider video coming from a random guy in the crowd with a smartphone?
Had there been a Toffee by the sideline who took video of the challenge and it showed that Mirallas' contact was purely incidental, would that be considered in the appeal?
Marcotti clearly highlights the two pressing areas where additional legislation is required from football governing bodies: what is considered admissible video evidence, and ensuring that the same amount of evidence is available for all clubs in the same competition. He concludes with another interesting thought, which has little to do with football and more with video production -
Every time we see replays or postgame analysis, somebody is selecting the camera angles and the incidents. An editorial decision is being made in terms of what to show and what not to show. And those decisions impact how we perceive incidents, players and referees.
There's no problem with that unless it becomes the basis for taking disciplinary action. Maybe it's time for the FA and other disciplinary bodies to have a long, hard think about this before somebody does set up his own Costa Cam.
Here is the wording of the FA statement on Gabriel, and the opinion piece from Arsenal blog The Short Fuse on it.
"Arsenal's claim of wrongful dismissal in relation to Gabriel has been upheld following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing.
"The player's three-match suspension has, therefore, been withdrawn with immediate effect.
"Gabriel was dismissed for violent conduct during the game against Chelsea on Saturday [19 September 2015].
"The player is currently subject to a separate FA charge of improper conduct in relation to Saturday's game and has until 6pm on Thursday [24 September 2015] to reply."
The FA also released a statement on Costa, and here is the adjoining response from Chelsea blog We Ain't Got No History.
"An FA charge against Diego Costa for violent conduct not seen by the match officials but caught on video has been found proven following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing.
"The Chelsea forward will, therefore, serve the standard penalty of a three-match suspension with immediate effect.
"The charge, which the player denied, was in relation to an incident involving Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny in the 43rd minute of the game on Saturday [19 September 2015]."