Needed: More refs and video aid

[MY VIEW] By refusing to embrace the future, Sepp Blatter is ignoring his own past. Before he replaced Joao Havelange as FIFA President after the 1998 World Cup, Blatter initiated discussions of rule changes as general secretary, and ran right into the same kind of obstinance he is himself now professing.

Blatter wanted stricter enforcement and greater punishment for serious fouls, more accurate evaluations of offside situations, and more or less a cleaner, fairer game.

At every turn, the referees told him no, and Havelange rigidly backed the officials, even as video evidence piled up that offside decisions were regularly and routinely being blown.

Blatter would express his frustrations occasionally, muttering about how members of the referees’ committee wouldn’t even discuss changes, and then say no. They would just say no, and that was that.

Now, it is Blatter who is saying no to methods that would enable referees to better adjudicate a fast-moving, complex, impassioned, and intensely scrutinized series of events and incidents, i.e., a top-level soccer game.

He terminated experiments with goal-line technology to determine whether a ball has crossed the goal line, and though tests of goal-line officials will continue they are not being used in this World Cup.

Very sad, since a goal-line official would certainly have clarified the offside Carlos Tevez goal against Mexico that was allowed to stand and spotted Frank Lampard’s shot coming down two feet over the goal line for an apparent English equalizer against Germany.

Had a goal-line official been in place during the notorious France-Ireland playoff match last November, France’s goal set up by Thierry Henry’s handball would most likely not have been allowed.

I refer to goal-line officials instead of goal-line technology not out of preference for one or the other. I believe both should be used: officials to better observe action in and around the goalmouth, and cameras to monitor the goal line.

In my perfect world, there would be two referees, with equal authority, as used to be the case in basketball, along with goal-line officials and perhaps a video referee to watch the game and alert the match officials when they may have missed something, like a shot crossing the goal line, or a “goal” scored by a player at least a yard offside.

You would think Blatter, a former marketing mogul painstakingly conscious of the sport’s image, would do everything possible to keep that image clean and sparkly and enticing. Instead, he steadfastly maintains that keeping soccer in the dark, literally and technologically, generates controversy and publicity.

Well, I’ve been hearing a lot more disdain and ridicule the past few years, not just in recent days. ESPN’s saturation coverage has cranked up the backlash to a crescendo.

If resistance from the referees, who don’t want their authority usurped, is blocking changes, the refs are in the wrong. Whether they want help or not, they need it, and it’s up to Blatter to implement whatever improvements are determined to be most feasible.

Goal-line officials will be back for the Europa League but as per Blatter there’s nothing else in the works.

Now the NBA and major colleges use three referees rather than two to monitor a much smaller playing area.

Hockey, for decades a one-referee sport, now uses two in addition to a pair of linesmen and video officials to review goal-line incidents. Even baseball, by far the American sport steeped deepest in tradition, allows umpires to review video in ambiguous home-run situations.

The NFL has been using video replay in certain situations since the mid-1980s and refined it several times, but it’s hard to find someone in favor of eliminating it.

Soccer doesn’t need to take the lead of any league, American or otherwise, but it does need an upgrade. It invites ridicule with its stubborn insistence that the status quo is all well and good.

I respect tradition and do sympathize somewhat with those who fear more officials and cameras and TV monitors will slow down and impair the game. But the modern system of game officiating is flawed.

There are not enough eyes on the field to observe the action, and a referee and referee’s assistants can’t possibly be in the right position to see shots that come down on or near the goal line.

The officials are already wired for sound. Why can’t there be more of them, and why can’t they be wired for video as well?

7 comments about "Needed: More refs and video aid".
  1. Rich James, June 29, 2010 at 8:56 a.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly. It seems the outcome of games too often turns on arbitrariness. There certainly should be two officials, goal line tech, and at least the option to review infractions in the box. Worried about dragging the game out? Clamp down on all diving theatrics.

  2. Power Dive, June 29, 2010 at 11:12 a.m.

    I'm definitely in agreement and really in favor of expanding video review to more aspects of the game. Very few goals are scored in soccer and these refs (who I don't really blame because there job is just too difficult) are deciding the outcomes of games. The outcome needs to be decided by the players on the field. Since we are somewhat on the topic, a few other rule changes I would be in favor of (I think this would make the game more palatable to the U.S. general public): (1) stop the clock in the last 15 mins or so when a player gets "injured". Every time a team has a lead late in the game everyone starts getting injured. It's just ridiculous. Taking the incentive away (i.e. wasting time) will hopefully curb this dispicable behavior. I realize that this is what added time is supposed to cover, but I don't think that it does an adequate job. And, it seems no matter what happens, there is always 3 or 4 mins added to the end of game. (2) allow FIFA/governing body to review games after they are played and hand out cards and/or fines for diving. You might get your foul called during the game but you know there will be a price to be paid after the game. Any thoughts?

  3. Christopher Tscherne, June 29, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.

    Mr. Mahoney is "right-on" in his opinion. There is NO reason that the referee on the field can not consult in seconds with the fourth official via his wireless headset to determine the fair outcome of a controversial situation. The fourth official should have access to multiple views in real time just as the viewers on television.

    Even if it takes more than a few seconds, a fair outcome should be the main goal of FIFA and the referee's in general.

    Some individuals of a more sinister nature may think that FIFA's refusal to accept new options in the name of fairness brings up the following questions:

    Does FIFA want an honest mistake by a referee to influence to outcome of a match?

    Are all of the mistakes made by referees honest?

    Does FIFA by way of referee decisions influence the outcome of matches?

    Tough questions, but sinister minds will want to know.

  4. Daniel Lann, June 29, 2010 at 2:46 p.m.

    Hey, Power Dive, great idea. I'm an old dude who looks askance at the abhorrent practice of attempting to get a foul call by diving, faking injury, etc. It is actually ruining the game. In my playing days this kind of thing didn't happen. Period. A player behaving in such a manner would be ridiculed by his own teammates and would be putting a bullseye on his back for the opposing team to take a retaliatory whack at him. A post game review is an innovative idea. Fine and/or suspend the culprit from the next game.

  5. Ross Tanner, June 30, 2010 at 12:53 a.m.

    Right on Ridge. The game has become too fast and too physical for a single referee and two assistants to properly call a game. The best referees in the world are proving that on a daily basis in South Africa. I was a referee in both single and two-referee systems and the two referees with two assistants would be a major step forward. As an alternate, the use of assistant referees by each goal would be a positive step, not as good but with a better likelihood of being adopted. Another change, it should be a foul to falsely simulate a foul.

  6. Jerry May, June 30, 2010 at 3:16 p.m.

    Can't let this pass without several comments, with specific reference to Power Dive and Daniel. While sad it took a disallowed goal (Lampard's) which clearly impacted a game, to bring video review back into discussion, in my opinion, goal line technology cannot be the end of the discussion. Disallowed goals of this type are rare and while they will always impact a game, there are two other areas which are having a much greater adverse impact on the game; one of which could be virtually eliminated if video review was used to review and penalize players who simulate or overly exaggerate a foul. Think red card incident to Kaka in Ivory Coast match. Video review clearly showed what really occurred and potential for player being sanctioned for such conduct should create a significant disincentive. Believe some leagues use this type of review for penalizing unobserved "off the ball" incidents. Last comment relates to Power Dive's observation regarding "injuries" late in game. Agree they are totally dispicable and clearly such conduct disrupts play, as well as, possible time wasting. Would not agree that stopping clock is answer. While referee can and often does add time, which addresses time wasting, the true impact is the disruption of play. Answer may be to impose a time penalty (say 2 minutes after he is removed from field) relative to when an "injured" player could come back into the game. A player truly injured could be expected to require at least 2 minutes to recover, but a player thinking of faking an injury might think twice about his team having to play a man down for a time penalty. Coupled with video review for obvious injury simulation, the all too common frequency of these late game "injuries" might be reduced.

  7. I w Nowozeniuk, July 1, 2010 at 11:09 a.m.

    It's a no brainer...replays reviewed by a fifth official can be assessed with 15 seconds or less, no stoppage the worst, put a goal line judge at each side.

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