• Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

BALLPOINT: OUR FOOTBALL IS IN DIRE NEED OF TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS

The Moustached Journalist says;

In the undiluted concession of Davidson Owumi, the former Head of Operations of the defunct Interim Management Committee (IMC), and now the Chief Operating Officer of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) had sometime said that the league organizers have put quality officiating of matches as top on its agenda, in a far-reaching plan to critically improve refereeing in the 2023/24 season according to a report published by BSNSports in June 2023.

This was the final installation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, on standby and ready for usage. Photo Credit: Culled from Punch Newspaper.

Owumi, on his candid assessment of refereeing in the Nigeria’s elite division over the couple of years stated that officiating has been a challenge in the nation’s domestic league, as it got to its lowest flow a few seasons ago.

“Officiating is one of the game aspects we plan to improve on. Plans are in the pipeline to introduce the use of communication gadgets to assist our match officials in carrying out their duties optimally.

Besides the worrisome state of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), refereeing is top on the list and most talked about issue in the nation’s domestic league. Photo Credit: @mikethepundit on X.

“In top leagues of the world, they know these match officials are prone to errors as they are human too, that’s why the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and other communication devices are been used in matches,” Owumi explained.

However, things took an important twist in the abridged version of the league in 2022/23 season with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) taking a stance on refereeing, naming Faith Irabor, a former FIFA-certified referee and CAF Referee Instructor, as the Head of the Referees’ Committee.

In the past five seasons, over 10 referees annually gets either suspended or appear before the disciplinary panel of the Referees’ Committee for bad officiating and other forms of misconduct. Photo Credit: Sporting Lagos on Facebook.

Concurrently, technologies are now becoming quite efficient in resolving common human errors that has long been particles in the game of football which many still frown at due to its unruly interruptions at whenever during matches, especially in the depth of actions.

While, some have come to terms with the fact that this new development has come to stay and will further change the game for good. By so doing, it will remove if not subdue the tendency of a one-sided predilection.

What is more to good pay packages, incentives and welfare of the referees, if not to have them undergo regular seminars and workshops to further brush their Spanish? Photo Credit: Shooting Stars Sports Club on Facebook.

Yet, these issues earlier stated have not been fully eradicated by these technological advances rather are even making the game little bit complicated in respect to applying the rules with contradictory interpretations by various match officials in major football leagues across the globe.

Unlike the Goal Line Technology (GLT), the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is a system that helps referees to decide better about players’ fouls, if a goal was valid, red card decisions, in football matches.

In order to reduce common human errors during matches, enabling technological aids should be provided to ease officiating in the Nigeria’s top league. Photo Credit: Culled from Sports247.

In accordance with the aforementioned, Sporting Tribune also reported that the President of the NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gasau had assured Nigerian football fans that VAR technology will be deployed in the NPFL before his administration expires in 2026.

This was disclosed while speaking with the press at the maiden retreat for NFF board members of the NPFL in Abuja where he hinted that his administration will ensure Nigerian referees benefit from the VAR training organized by the West Africa Football Union (WAFU) in January 2024.

Oftentimes, the league organizers have taken severe actions towards harassment and battery of referees in any form at match centres, peradventure by either or both club officials and their respective fans. Photo Credit: Culled from Soccernet.

“The referees are managing Video Assistant Referee (VAR). For now, NPFL doesn’t have the VAR materials. If we get to that level, I think the only thing is for them to support us in trying to get the equipment. But we will soon see how to use VAR in Nigeria.

“I think by January, we are going to send the first set of referees that are going to go for VAR training. The West Africa Football Union (WAFU) are trying to organise this training.

There is more to be done in the aspects of providing a safe space for referees to officiate fairly and being under no duress, so as to render the very best of services during games. Photo Credit: Culled from BSNSports.

“Still, at our level, I tried to let them see how we can increase the number of those who will participate in the training so that we can have a minimum of 10 referees (from Nigeria) that will participate in the training.

“By the grace of God, we will try and see how we can collaborate with FIFA, and I assure you that before my tenure ends in 2026, we will start using VAR in Nigeria,” Gusau said.

Even with the introduction of technological advancements in football, referees yet are prone to making wrong calls and unbalanced decisions sometimes. Photo Credit: Remo Stars Sports Club on Facebook.

Undoubtedly, the plan to introduce the VAR technology in the Nigeria’s top league is a laudable step in the right direction by the nation’s football governing body to enhance the fairness and accuracy of officiating in our domestic football league.

However, to successfully implement the VAR into Nigeria football means that it will shoulder on several critical factors, most notably the infrastructural facilities available in the local stadia are below par to the world-class embodiment needed for such innovative ideas to strive.

The moment the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was being test-run after an installation at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City. Photo Credit: Culled from Technext.

While VAR has become a staple in other climes worldwide that’s remain a big problem here in most African countries, especially in Nigeria. However, it is imperative to note that not all stadiums across the country are equipped to accommodate this technology seamlessly.

Besides the fact that Nigeria boasts of a rich football culture and passionate fans, the state of many stadiums remains a concern and in visibly eyesore.

In terms of good officiating in Nigeria football, we may not be far from having the solutions at hand, only if those at the helm of affairs would make available all that are needed for these local referees to strive as their counterparts in other climes. Photo Credit: Enyimba FC on Facebook.

For examples, the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Mobolaji Johnson Arena and Remo Stars Stadium, despite being standard footballing edifices, may not meet the stringent technological requirements for VAR.

Similarly with that of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, may face challenges in adopting VAR due to its outdated infrastructure, and many other stadia used for the Nigerian league games.

Unfortunately, a huge number of stadiums across the country does not have the facilities required to accommodate Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Photo Credit: Culled from Sporting Tribune.

In order to efficiently introduce VAR into our football, the NFF in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and all stakeholders must embark on a comprehensive stadium upgrade program.

This includes investing in high-definition cameras, fibre-optic networks, and control rooms equipped with the latest technology while such an outstanding endeavour requires substantial financial commitment and meticulous planning.

One cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that Ibrahim Musa Gasua-led NFF administration who has taken it upon itself to pursue the need to improvise Nigerian refereeing system. Photo Credit: Bendel Insurance FC Official on Facebook.

The truth is that it may take time and substantial investments to bring all stadiums up to par with the technological requirements of VAR. But at the point of completion, it will surely be a worthwhile development and upgrade to our football.

The VAR technology holds the promise of fairer and more accurate officiating. Although, its effectiveness in Nigeria football will depend on the commitment to addressing the infrastructural gaps that currently exist in many stadia.

However, there is quite a long way to go with officiating in Nigeria due to the fact that our referees are barely exposed to modern development regarding the evolution of football. Photo Credit: Platinum News.

In the same light, the training and capacity-building of Nigerian referees are of significance to the game as the VAR technology. The essences will only be achieved when referees are well-versed in its operation and interpretation.

Meanwhile, this innovation does not end with the introduction of VAR rather a commendable move like the involution of communication gadgets for referees to significantly improved the quality of officiating in the NPFL.

The centre referee Abdulmalik Madaki and his assistants in the domestic encounter between Enyimba and Sporting Lagos on Matchday 17 were pictured in their self-equipped communication gadgets. Photo Credit: Culled from The Athletic NG.

This is essential to be realistic about Nigeria’s challenges in implementing this technology without an avenue for the referees to converse with his assistants and the officials in the VAR monitoring room in reaching a common resolution over a conflicting opinion during the game.

Thereby, referees must be adequately trained to use VAR as a tool to make more informed decisions, keeping in line with global best practices while immensely equipped with gadgets to aid communication within themselves as always seen in top-tier football leagues in other climes.

The league organizers in collaboration with the NFF should aid referees with technical know-how to maintain free-flowing modulation of the game. Photo Credit: Ayoola Adeleke via WhatsApp.

It is high time the league organizers procured communication gadgets to Nigerian referees for easy and free-flowing operation of the game — a thing of necessity in modern football.

Obviously, a must-need technological advancement to speed up decision-making process and to avoid communication breakdowns and misinformation between the centre referee and other officials during matches.

In respect to introducing technologies into the NPFL, there is also a cause for concern with how it should be best interpreted in line with world standard practices. Photo Credit: Ayoola Adeleke via WhatsApp.

Thereafter, seminars and workshops should be frequently organised for all officials where they will be taught on the use of these equipment so as to be at the same pace with the handful of new technicalities that being invented into modern football.

This will make the job more convenient, accessible and willing to do for the referees rather than grasping them by the collars for every wrong decision taken during games. This, many referees, have oftentimes been suspended, banned even had their licenses withheld by the Referees’ Committee of the NFF.

Good officiating during matches would not be completely hampered by selfish elements, if the football leadership put referees in best regards and are cater for always. Photo Credit: Remo Stars Sports Club on Facebook.

Almost seven months since his submittal to the introduction of technological advancements into Nigeria football, Davidson Owumi, the Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s top football league has once again admitted that officiating will only get better if modern technological aids have been deployed.

While assessing the performance of referees in the first stanza of the 2023/24 season, he stated that there has been marked improvement in several aspects of the league organisation.

For two consecutive seasons now, the new executive board of NPFL has done their best possible to keep up with the overall well-being of referees in the league. Photo Credit: Shooting Stars Sports Club on Facebook.

“After 185 matches, we probably had issues with less than 15 and in terms of percentage, I think our referees scored over 85 per cent which represents excellence.

“We are not unmindful that football is now technologically driven for players training and match officiating where the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) now assist referees correct human errors,” Owumi noted.

Good things don’t need so much publicity. Likewise, should our referees have outstanding officiating records, it will earn them top appointments at the CAF and FIFA cadres. Photo Credit: Bendel Insurance FC Official on Facebook.

Owumi further collaborated with his previous concession during the NPFL Super 6 at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Lagos, said that the league organizers are adequately working with the NFF and other development partners behind the scenes towards introducing technology in the league.

He also pointed to the league’s zero tolerance for poor officiating as manifested in the swift withdrawal of culprits from officiating in matches of the NPFL while prioritising the welfare of all match officials.

The executive board of NPFL in conjunction with the entirety of NFF administration should critically delve into addressing the problems of Nigerian refereeing system with all seriousness. Photo Credit: Enyimba FC on Facebook.

“We worked in perfect sync with the NFF Referees Appointment Committee to organise trainings for selected members of the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) and those who have so far been adjudged to have performed poorly were delisted for now.

“we not only increased their travel allowances and honorarium but also ensured their bank accounts were credited before they travel. This is unprecedented in the league’s history.

Sadly if refereeing continues shabbily, our match officials will always be at the receiving end with the least progress recorded on the continent and in the world at large. Photo Credit: Culled from Daily Trust.

“So, overall we have made it possible for our officiating to improve considerably and would continue to explore opportunities to attain global best rating. It’s work in progress”, Owumi concluded.

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