Ed has a good piece on Thierry Henry already up so I won’t harp on too much further on the result itself. I am biased, he’s one of my 3-4 favorite players of all time. At this moment, I feel more pity for him than I do anything else.
Instead, I want to focus on the true cause of Ireland’s injustice yesterday, soccer’s continued refusal to institute any kind of replay review system. FIFA’s constant harping against replay review becomes more and more insipid by the day. I do not understand how a billion dollar business like soccer could allow its major events to be tainted by the prospect of a mistaken call. Even if you remove the completely flawed (but necessary) offside rule, soccer referees at every level are underequipped to handle a sport that has gotten bigger, faster and more complex since these rules were written in 1863. I don’t blame the refs, I blame FIFA for its continued intractabilty on this issue. I leave you with two, admittedly long questions to ponder.
1) How is soccer so different from the following sports that it cannot possible have video review while all of the following do?
- Basketball – FIBA, the NBA, the NCAA, and ULEB (basketball’s UEFA) all have replay to ensure last second shots are valid or not.
- Baseball – MLB has recently instituted instant replays for binary calls (fair/foul, in play/out of play, etc)
- Football – Pro football was the first “field game” to use video replay back in the 80s and after many tweaks and one brief cancellation of the program, it remains. Additionally, DI College Football has recently instituted it as well.
- Ice Hockey – NHL uses a very sophisticated system where officials both at the arena and back at League HQ in Toronto review goals. In the Olympics, governed by the IIHF all goals are automatically reviewed just to be safe.
- Cricket – Cricket uses a third “TV” umpire to review many calls and can additionally use audio footage and the Hawk-eye computer aided video system to ensure calls are correct.
- Rugby – Both codes of rugby have a third referee located in a booth to review contested calls by video. The main difference between the two is that League replay officials can use it to determine if players were offsides, while Union replay officials can only use it do decide possible “scoring events.”
- Tennis – The ATP, WTA, and all four Grand Slams use video review systems to ensure line calls are correct.
- Rodeo – Did you know that professional rodeo now uses replay to determine “timing issues, fouls against the rider for touching the bull or ground with his free hand or using the fence to stay on the bull, or fouls by the bull, such as dragging the rider across the fence.” Admittedly, I have no idea what any of that means.
- NASCAR and IRL motor racing use video replay (amongst other sophisticated electronic timing equipment) to ensure that drivers don’t violate rules and that they are scored and ordered correctly.
- Track and Field – The IAAF uses both sophisticated still imagery as well as video evidence to score races and settle disputes
- Swimming – FINA uses cameras as part of its automated timing systems.
- Horse Racing – Stewards regularly use video to determine fouls such as cutting off another horse.
I ask again, why is soccer so different that it couldn’t possible have video review and these sports can?
Here is my second question.
2) Why else would FIFA oppose video review so much other than it wants to maintain control and possibly manipulate matches as it sees fit? I hate conspiracy theories like this one, but I cannot think of another motivation for FIFA to be so against video review. When even hidebound morons like the baseball owners agree it’s time for video replay, then you know it’s past due.
Here’s what I would like to see. I’d like to see one of the major preeminant competitions like the Champions League, Premier League, or La Liga call FIFA’s bluff and simply say they’re going to implement replay, whether FIFA approves or not. This would force FIFA on to the back foot in the arena of public opinion and possibly force movement on the issue out of the governing body. Is Sepp Blatter going to stand atop the gates of Old Trafford on opening day screaming, “YOU CANNOT GO IN THERE, VIDEO REVIEW CAMERAS HAVE BEEN INSTALLED! DO NOT GO INTO THAT STADIUM!”
Here is my suggested system. As we can see from the variation of replay systems and rules from the sports above, there are lots of ways to do this. This is the idea I happened upon yesterday.
- Have two endline assistant referees empowered to recommend fouls (just like ARs do currently) and determine if goals should be given.
- Institute a replay system whereby at the next stoppage of play immediately after a contested call, the referee can refer a play to a video referee in the press box. This referee would have broad scope to make rulings on handballs, goals, and whether a ball was in or out of bounds. I would not use it for non-handball fouls or to determine if there was contact warrenting a penalty. I could envision using it to determine if a foul happened inside or outside the area, but not to replace the referees’ judgement on penalty calls.