With a tremendous sense of comic timing, the International Football Association Board this week ruled (despite the votes of the English and Scottish FAs) against any possibility of even experimenting with the use of goal-line technology, almost at the same minute as Birmingham City were denied a clear goal in their FA Cup quarter-final against Portsmouth that might have kept them in the competition.
It's embarrassing that in the modern age such crucial refereeing errors, so simple to rectify, can still see teams knocked out of a nation's biggest cup tournament. What's more embarrassing still is that another sport has successfully demonstrated just how easily many of the niggling issues that dog the thankless task of football officiating can be solved.
1. Video replays.
There is simply no rational argument against the introduction of video replays, which work extremely well in rugby, tennis, cricket and other sports. They don't "break up the game" – when refs call for the TMO in rugby, it just adds to the tension and excitement, especially in grounds with video screens where the crowd can see the replay too, and it wastes no more time than having a crowd of players surrounding the referee and fruitlessly protesting, which is what happens now.
(Often, the current situation results in a double injustice, as team that's just had a penalty wrongly awarded against them or a goal wrongly allowed or disallowed also suffers one or more yellow cards for complaining about it.)
Replays would also be entirely at the discretion of the referee, when he wasn't absolutely sure that the evidence of his own eyes was satisfactory. They could be restricted to goals only, or also allowed for penalty kicks, or sending-off decisions, even offsides (in conjunction with an amended advantage rule – see below).
2. Proper application of the advantage rule.
Having spotted a foul, rugby refs can allow the game to go on for sometimes as long as a minute to see if the attacking team can gain any advantage from the situation. If not, it's back for the free kick. In football, the allowable period of advantage seems to be approximately half a second.
As such, it's almost impossible for the ref to properly judge whether an advantage has resulted or not, leading almost always to the attacking team being penalised. (Either by being denied the chance to carry on and score, or by the fouler getting away with it.)
This is clearly wrong, and needlessly so. Football is a faster-moving game than rugby and couldn't have such a long period of advantage, but surely attackers could be allowed, say, five seconds to make the most of any opportunities before being hauled back for the free kick?
3. The 10-yard dissent rule.
What happened to this? For about a fortnight a few years ago, haranguing a football ref about a free kick risked resulting in it being moved forward 10 yards, as in rugby. I don't remember hearing any announcement about this rule being rescinded, but it never happens any more. Bring it back.
4. Mic up referees.
Related to (3), and an important step towards a general policy of much greater respect for refs, as seen in the egg-chasing game. If gigantic hulking prop forwards can quietly say "Yes sir" to a tiny wee ref when he tells them to shut up, so can overpaid prima-donna footballers.
Watching the ref get crowded and bullied sends out all sorts of bad signals, and never achieves anything anyway. Miking football referees would probably lead to a few X-rated moments in the first weeks, but sooner or later players would learn to accept the ref's decision or get booked, no messing around.
And of course, with video replays for contentious major decisions, there'd be less need for shouting at the ref in the first place.
5. Proper clock management.
It's ridiculous that this doesn't happen already. Incredibly simple to implement, and would completely put an end to both time-wasting and added-time controversy (and the endless tired jokes about how much there's going to be if Man Utd are trailing after 90 minutes). If the ref is stopping time for a substitution/injury/timewasting, he says "Time off" to the timekeeper and the clock stops.
Then, when the clock says "90", time really is up, everyone in the ground can see it, and there's no arguing over how much has been added. And you also don't get the farcical situations where there have clearly been five or six minutes of stoppages, but the ref just adds the standard three.
6. The sin bin.
At the moment, defenders can make a cynical "professional foul" on an attacker (particularly late on in a game), prevent a goal being scored, and effectively escape any meaningful punishment, except maybe the possibility of being suspended for a later game against an entirely different team.
That's clearly no compensation to the team who've just been denied a goalscoring opportunity (and in the case of "true" professional fouls, which don't result in the award of a penalty kick, ACTUALLY denied one). Their team spending 10 minutes a man short gives a clear and meaningful punishment to the cheats, and two yellows would still mean a red.
Taken together, these simple and easily-implemented steps would mean a better, fairer, more transparent and more uplifting sport. None of them has any meaningful downside, and none of them has any significant financial cost. You know it makes sense.