By 90Min
August 26, 2019

No, we haven't finally lost the plot. That happened a long time ago. Believe it or not, there is some actual factual (well, tabloid factual) grounding for this one. 

Granted it's a long way from concrete, but reports on Monday claim that FIFA are exploring many possibilities to further the use of technology in football. One such implementation, it is reported, could be the altogether scrapping of human linesmen, with ROBOTS taking their place

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Of course, if it comes to anything substantial, 'robots' will likely just translate to an extension of VAR, and not the wide-spread use of the sort of sentient humanoids that all of pop culture has conditioned us to fear and laugh at in equal measure over the decades...But that's nowhere near as fun.


So let's do the only sensible thing, and rank some of the most recognisable automatons from film and TV by their ability to assistant-referee a Premier League match. 


R2-D2 (Star Wars) - 1/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

Useless. He's about knee-height, doesn't have arms to hold a flag (even C-3PO can do that), and can't even speak. How on earth is this idiot going to officiate anything? 


He's also a noted coward, so is he really going to be of much use to Mike Dean when David Luiz is squaring up to Tanguy Ndombele? I doubt it. 


R2-D2 - a boss at co-piloting an X-wing, utterly hopeless at co-piloting a football match. 


K-9 (Doctor Who) - 2/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

For the uninitiated, yes, K9 is a talking robot dog. And yes, he's called K9 because it sounds vaguely like a robot and is also a pun on 'canine', which means dog. 


As for his officiating ability, he's not a great lot better than R2. He is also vertically challenged and has a similar impairment vis-à-vis a lack of hands. 

Unlike his Star Wars contemporary, however, K9  can actually communicate with humans and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of basically everything, including (probably) the rules of football. He maybe wouldn't be a total disaster as a last resort.  


Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands) - 2/10

Yes, the creepy emo Johnny Depp dude is a robot (sort of) but he's probably not a linesman. 

How's he going to hold the flags?  Would also be easily distracted with requests from Paul Pogba for half-time haircuts.


To be fair, he would be a top groundsman.


Terminator (The Terminator) - 3/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

While physically up to the task, it's difficult to imagine him doing a good job really, isn't it? He certainly wouldn't take any cheek from the likes of Dele Alli, but he would murder everyone who crosses him, and no matter what way you look at it, that's a probable disadvantage to the sport in the medium to long term. 

I'm also not sure that it's legal for linesmen to wield sawn-off shotguns, so we're probably better steering clear of Arnie. 


RoboCop (RoboCop) - 5/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

"All linesmen are morally cops, and RoboCop is the purest version of that." - unnamed 90min colleague


It's a captivating argument, but unfortunately not one that elevates everyone's favourite automated policeman out of mid-table. 

He has his pros for sure, with his heightened vision and regimented discipline, but he would be too slow to keep up with play, and with the often-petulant behaviour of modern football fans, he'd likely spend the entire game arresting people. Nothing would get done. 


Sir Killalot (Robot Wars) - 6/10

Moveable arms, check, lack of tolerance for foolishness, check, history of being commentated on by Jonathan Pearce, check and check.

In many ways, 750kg (I know, I just looked it up and it shocked me too) Sir Killalot is the ideal modern lino. However, his unquenchable robot thirst for killing is, like Arnie, a blot on his copy book. Also, more importantly, his top speed is 10mph which is frankly not good enough to keep up with even the slowest players (maybe in Serie A).

Still, the idea of him grabbing goalhangers by the heel and chucking them in 'the pit' is an enticing prospect.


The Vision (Avengers) - 7/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

Paul Bettany's Vision, while not technically a robot if we're splitting hairs, would probably do a better job of it than most actual Premier League linesmen. He's a consummate, vigilant professional, and always makes the right decision for the greater good - the greater good, in this case, being the football match at hand. 

As a by-product of Tony Stark and one of the Infinity Stones, he's the most intelligent being on the planet, meaning that understanding the intricacies of 'second phase' and 'daylight' would be no issue. And he can fly - a huge help in keeping up with the play and defusing riots before they start. 


Agent Smith (The Matrix) - 8/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

Anyone who's seen the Matrix trilogy in its entirety will be absolutely terrified of this man, and that's what you want your officials to inspire. Unmitigated terror. 

He passes as human more than anyone else on this list and has the ability to multiply himself innumerably, meaning you could surround the pitch with assistant referees if you wanted to. Lumberjack match style. 

Every football match would, of course, have to take place inside the Matrix, but that's alright, since reality is probably just a massive simulation anyway.


Optimus Prime (Transformers) - 10/10

Image by Robbie Copeland

The idealistic, morally incorruptible leader of the Autobots, there is no topping Optimus Prime. What a coup he would be if the Premier League could land him. He'd be unwavering in his commitment to the integrity of the sport, and would make the right decision every single time. 

Of course, he's 28ft tall, which doesn't spell good news for the supporters behind him, but from a purely sporting perspective, his monumental stature is only an advantage. He wouldn't miss a thing. 

This towering scrap-metal Mike Dean would be the optimal appointment. 

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