It took all of 42 minutes for us to remember what we love most about the Premier League, and sports in general: a collective yell at a referee.
The opening fixtures of the Premier League’s Project Restart were dull and drab for the most part, with a 0-0 draw kicking things off between Sheffield United and Aston Villa on Wednesday, but there was at least one moment in the first 90 minutes back that sparked emotion.
Set up with a free kick between the box and the corner at an angle that provided little in the way of shooting angles for Sheffield United, Oliver Norwood sent a looping ball towards the back post. Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland caught the ball and stumbled backwards into his own net, carrying the ball well across the goal line.
However, neither the referee nor the linesman caught it. And the PL’s Hawk-Eye goal line technology that is supposed to alert the referee when the ball crosses the line missed it, too.
According to a statement from Hawk-Eye “all seven of its cameras monitoring the goal were obscured by either the goalkeeper, a defender or the goalpost.”
It was the first time in over 9,000 matches using Hawk-Eye’s technology that this oddity occurred, according to the company. Funny though, because there were plenty of angles on NBC’s broadcast that were conclusive that the ball crossed the line.
As more technology is introduced to sports all over the world, mistakes are bound to happen, especially when people are involved. Michael Oliver, the referee in the Sheffield-Villa game, could have easily seen with his eyes that the ball crossed the line but instead of trusting his eyes, he kept looking at his wristwatch, which signals when the technology spots a ball across the line, to no avail. If only EA Sports had a “referee botches clear goal call” audio button that NBC could have easily inserted into the broadcast.
At the very least, we all got a glimpse into why sports bring us together, even if that overriding shared emotion is anger or disappointment. As little Sheffield United, pegged for a relegation scrap at the beginning of the season, now inch closer to an unthinkable Champions League berth, the two extra points that should have been theirs will likely linger for a while.
Depending on what happens with Manchester City’s appeal of its two-year Champions League ban, those extra two deserved points could have put Sheffield into a Champions League spot yesterday. Instead, they sit in sixth place - one point behind Manchester United, who play Tottenham on Friday.
But those two lost points don’t just affect the top of the table. At the bottom of the table, all of Aston Villa’s relegation rivals will be angered that the Birmingham-based club earned a point it did not deserve on the day.
With just eight points separating the bottom six teams, every single one could be the difference between staying in the Premier League in 2020-21 or being relegated down to the Championship next season. The monetary difference is staggering. The stakes for all of those clubs massive.
If the relegation battle comes down to that point, there will be some fingers pointed at the technology and everyone will again get to share in that collective emotion that we missed with sports paused.
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