After a successful trial at this year’s World Cup, the Premier League has announced that it will use vanishing spray in the forthcoming season. The spray is used by referees for free kicks to mark the position of the ball and the subsequent wall 10 yards away. Invented by Pablo Silva, the foam is a combination of water, butane gas, surfactant and some other ingredients, which when sprayed combine to create the white foam. The butane evaporates immediately which causes a chemical reaction that creates white bubbles that cling to the grass. The surfactant gives the bubbles stability but after a minute or so the bubbles begin to pop and eventually disappear leaving only water and some residue behind on the grass. The clear white line looks like shaving cream but gives referees the much needed edge in controlling the game and prevents players from either repositioning the ball further forward or encroaching from the wall to minimize the shooting opportunity.
The Premier League had been hesitant to green light the use of the spray until it could conduct its own tests around the suitability of the product but after seeing how effective it was in Brazil, they have reversed their decision and fast tracked it through internal processes to allow its referees to use it going forward. They follow La Liga, Serie A and UEFA in doing so with other countries likely to embrace the spray in forthcoming seasons. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive indicated in a statement that the PL sees the use of the spray in matches as a huge benefit to referees, players and fans alike. His statement was echoed by Football League chief executive, Shaun Harvey who has also backed the use of spray but wants to trial it in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first before opening up to the remaining Football league competitions like the Championship, League One, League Two and Capital One Cup.
The question many are asking is why the Premier League was so hesitant to begin with. Early tests of the product showed that there was no risk to players or referees health by using the product, primarily because of the unique non toxic ingredients within it. They also showed that pitches would not suffer either again due to ingredients in the spray. So why the reluctance? The Premier League has always pitched themselves as forward thinking and open to new developments that aid the game but yet allowing a spray that aides the forward progression of the game is seen as too radical? They argued that encroachment or ball moving at set pieces is a significant problem in the competition. But the truth is that whilst it’s not classified as a significant problem, it’s still an issue for referees with players always looking to gain a slight edge over its competitors behind the referees back, even if that means only moving the ball forward a foot or two during a free kick or moving the wall forward slightly. The same can be said about goal line technology with the PL one of the first to object to its use before eventually backing down. So what is their real concern? Sadly money. With one of the strongest products in the market, the PL is worried about changes to its magic formula that could affect its overall value. Quite simply, their greed is clouding their judgment and preventing the game from moving forward. Unless they can see revenue upside in these changes, the Premier League is not likely to move very quickly. Hardly forward thinking.