FIFA’s resistance to instant replay has become farcical

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.

  1. Have two endline assistant referees empowered to recommend fouls (just like ARs do currently) and determine if goals should be given.
  2. 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.

48 thoughts on “FIFA’s resistance to instant replay has become farcical

  1. Are you kidding? One thing I love about these argumenta are that they are so simplistic…There was a handball, goal shouldn’t count, let’s move on.

    But that’s not the way most games will play out will it? And is it really that simple?

    Who decides when a review happens?

    What if the goal is legit but another player from the attacking team commits a foul away from the ball?
    What if both teams commit a foul at the same time?

    Does the clock go back to where it was before the event?

    What if a contested play is shown to have rightfully resulted in a PK but in the meantime the offending team scores? Is the goal wiped out?

    What about fouls that aren’t called and possibly prevent the event that would have initiated a review?

    video images are 2 dimensional and prone to result in optical illusions, how many camera angles are needed to overturn a play?

    If you think these are theoretical issues that won’t come up in a real game, you haven’t been watching the NFL for the last couple years.

    The beauty of soccer, for me, is that the game never stops. And I coach youth…you can’t imagine how useful timeouts would be to me at times…but I rejoice that they do not exist. Anything to avoid a situation like the NFL where the ball is in play for as little as 12 minutes out of 60-minute game that takes over 3 hours to play.

    There are measures that can be taken that prevent soccer from becoming the morass that football has become, such as you goal line refs…such as real-time technology that can determine if a ball has crossed the goal line…but replay review is not one of them.

    Why should soccer not have an element of human error? Ireland lost because of human error, but it was more likely Keane’s errors than the refs.

  2. I’ll respond in kind
    Just watch rugby to see how well and how quickly reviews can be made. It’s a good system and one that I would imagine that soccer’s should resemble most. There is a long, long distance between the NFL style morass you describe and what I envision.

  3. well the lack of 3-D cameras has not proven unworkable in other sports but it does necessitate viewing replays multiple times from multiple angles. How long will the review process take at maximum?

    What do we do if it takes 2-3 minutes for a review? Show commercials? May as well just cut to commercial to make sure the ad spots we sold get shown. But what if there is no replay and we’ve sold ad time and can’t afford to give back the money? Maybe we can take a break with like two minutes left in the half to show the already-sold ads. But then is it fair to take a break in some games with two minutes left but not others? Maybe we should do it for every game…

    And handball is one of the most susceptible calls to diffculty from the 2-D nature of reviews. A hand superimposed on a ball from one angle may be shown to be 6-inches from the ball in another (see Rodney Wallace handball vs. LA Galaxy early in the spring season). Viewing from multiple angles will be virtually mandatory.

    Can you reduce the error rate by going to review? Yes. Can you eliminate it? No, you are left with different potential errors on plays that are review. And from statistics, you eliminate the random nature of errors and impose a condition where the rules promote one kind of error over another.

    How much are you willing to change the nature of the game to try and protect yourself against rare events? In my mind reviewing similar events (in a US biased way since that is who I see most often)…

    Maradona’s Hand of God – no goal, but Maradona would have just found another way to score that day

    John O’Brien vs. Mexico, Japorea – PK to Mexico

    Berhalter hand ball, US vs. Costa Rica WCQ – no camera angle (that I’ve ever seen) to judge the correctness of the call – ball is in front of Berhalter, camera behind…sure looks like his arms were in a position where there should be no intentional handball call, but views not conclusive

    USA vs. Germany, Japorea – Hugh Dallas saw it, decided it was not intentional…would not be reviewed.

    Henry vs. Ireland – disallow goal, outcome uncertain.

  4. Oh hell, now we are taking the lead of freekin’ Nascar and rodeo for instant replay – I’d rather watch paint dry.

    How many times have we watched sports with instituted replay – and still we cannot agree that their call was correct. It is still someone’s opinion.

    You will never pease everyone – keep the human side of football human. Do we really think that if FIFA manipulated results (as on poster suggested) that they would have LESS control with a compatriot in the replay booth ?

    Leave the replays to automobiles and bovines.

    Let us play naturally.

  5. This proposal would be fine, except that you need to take the review of handballs out of it.

    If you look at the NFL, MLB and NBA replay systems, they all have something in common. The only plays that are reviewable are ones that involve “black and white” issues where player intent is not at issue. They’re analogous to issues in soccer like whether a ball has crossed a line or not. If the issue is something like whether a cornerback intended to trip a wide receiver or whether the contact was unintentional, the play is not reviewable.

    The fact that a ball is handled by a player does not mandate any particular outcome under the LOTG because there’s a whole separate issue (“deliberateness” – as such term is defined in the LOTG) that must be analyzed. That issue is always subject to some level of interpretation. It’s the exact kind of interpretation that the NFL, MLB and NBA won’t allow to be subject to review.

    Similarly, FIFA should absolutely institute replay (or goalline technology) so that correct calls are made on whether a ball crosses a line or not. Similarly, if FIFA wants to amend the LOTG so that deliberateness is no longer a required element of a handball offense, then it would be fine to use it there as well. However, as currently drafted, the handball offense is the type of thing that would not be reviewable if FIFA followed the lead of the big American leagues.

  6. with technology though, there is no need to go to replay for goals, just set up an electronic reader and put chips under the skin of the ball to read (and light up a signal) any time the entirety of the ball is over the endline.

  7. I think it would work if you take the approach to it that is taken in hockey.

    If there is a legitimate reason to review a play, you take a minute to review it, but there must be conclusive evidence to overthrow the call made by the ref during the run of play. If the evidence isn’t totally conclusive, oh well, play on.

    It’s still a bit of a half-assed system but it would largely cut down on these types of things happening. I’m not totally for the idea of taking 10 minutes to review one foul or handball but instances that can be quickly rectified like that goal against Ireland, for sure.

  8. Football’s culture of allowing play to continue is one of the things that sets it apart from all of those other sports. Adding even 10 seconds for a review would result in massive amounts of time being added to the game and you still haven’t solved the question of making a correct decision, as TheHun has rightly pointed out. This argument is only brought up by people who would have benefited from a reversal of decision or those that fail to understand the culture of the game and would therefore compare it to such mind-numbing persuits as basketball, baseball, (American) football, NASCAR racing (!), rodeo (!!), etc.

  9. Instituting video replay in football seems to me pretty inconsequential way to building support in the US. Youth development and investment in our domestic league would be must more direct routes.

  10. Henry’s Handball really should be the nail in the coffin of Fifa’s resistance. i see some people here still oppose replay technology but i can’t believe they’re in the majority, so let’s start up some websites devoted to the subject, let’s have some online polls and petitions and try and get this problem solved.
    i don’t see why it should be such a big deal, just have a ‘Big Brother’ referee follow along with a TV set, and when the ref has obviously gotten a call wrong, whether it be a handball or a dive or a cheapshot off the ball, stop play and correct the mistake. it wouldn’t happen more than half a dozen times per match at most, except Chelsea v. Barcelona might take hours…

  11. The point of intent is possibley the greatest ingredient in this frivoulus argument.

    When I hear calls for instant replay – especially for “diving” in football it only goes to prove that the commentor has never played the game. (another reason I do not encourage recruiting nascar fans to follow the beautiful game – duh make the scoring higher-duh)

    For those who have shod the boots and shunned the tackles – theirs is the knowledge that – often a great leap of avoidance is just that – not neccessarily a stab at drawing a foul.

    Those who have never played will disagree – but that is understandable.

  12. The tone can be questioned, but he’s right. Stollar’s two questions are amazingly out of touch with the football world, probably 80% of which would have opposed replay before now. You never know, this type of incident might change that, but one is not entitled to presume it, and one is definitely out of order assume it away before this, the way he did with his second question.

    Plus, the human solution FIFA is experimenting with in the Europa League is arguably better, because it kills two birds with one stone–judging near-box calls like these, while also judging ball-crossing-line calls. It would require two separate technological solutions to do what just one human would probably get right 99% of the time.

  13. On the other hand, I actually support after-match video review for the purpose of handing out diving suspensions and fines. I think that out of the heat of the moment, the match officials can figure out the difference between a self-preservation instinct and an attempt to dupe the referee. And on the other side of it, it’s indisputable that diving is a practice of many players, that it is illegal, and that it sometimes works.

  14. I would also agree to after-match punishment for agregious fouls and bring the game into disrepute is punishable.

    Intent will always be hard to determine, but a flagrant foul or attempt to injury should be reviewed so that players are aware that post-game punishment can be effective.

    This should NOT include match results.

  15. How would adding 10 seconds for review mean massive amounts of time being added? The math doesn’t work, unless you’re saying there would be, say, 30 reviews a game, which I can’t imagine there would be.

  16. in reviewing the laws today (it’s been a while) i found myself enrapt with the pages of diagrams illustrating where the center ref and assistants should be during various situations. i think the area officials–what are they calling them?–are a good first step towards getting more calls right. the problem is a lack of triangulation, not a lack of cameras. i look forward to the technical findings following the use of area officials in this season’s europa league.

  17. I cannot imagine this cominng from someone who watches soccer regularly …

    there is already 5 minutes add (in each half) on to each game for celebrations, hissy fits and touch line yawning.

    As for the 10 seconds of review – really ?

    Look how much these posts are bickiering about one non-call. I can only wonder how long it takes to “get it right” with replays.

  18. Great point.

    What about the Caribbean or Central America ?

    Maybe Jack Warner will sell some of his pricey handbags to pay for extra officials and some video equipment ?

    Of course the ultimate answer is to block the televising of important matches (like USA – Honduras WCQ) so if you can’t see it -you can’t complain about it.

  19. my problem with instant replay in football (soccer) is that in football there are so many debatable calls… stoping play to review who last touched the ball or who handled the ball during play would be utterly rediculous. You would have stoppages on top of stoppages! Plus, football is a sport of fluidity…. theres a reason there are no brakes in this sport. It ruins the momentum of the game. Though I admit that the French win was a fraud and utterly disgraceful, I cannot help but think that this is what football is partially about… It adds passion to the game.. Controversy is one of the things soccer is made up of, but is this necessarily bad? Do you remember the “hand of god” goal during Argentina’s run to the world cup a few decades ago? This is one of the most remembered and debated goals of all time, but do you think there would be such a rememberance and legacy and passion if they had instant replay to disallow the goal.. No, people would forget about it and continue on. Allowing instant replay would take away controversy and some passion, that other sports just do not have.
    Also, what would be the rules on using instant replay, would each team get two challenges a game which they can use however they see fit. And what if the referee signals a “play on” on something a team wants to challenge…. You see what I mean? Things get way more complicated than they need be.

    Instead, I strongly agree that FIFA should put endline officials near each goal to assist in making calls, this is what could have prevented this call from happening, but I think instant replays is taking this one step to far and in the wrong direction.

  20. Good points here.

    I have felt for a long time that FIFA should promote the option of that goal line technology that Adidas was developing. It had the double benefit of improving accuracy without game delaying replay reviews.

    Someone mentioned that Rugby uses replay. I am frankly not that familiar with Rugby. Is the use of replay in that sport limited to black and white issues like if the ball crossed the goal line, or is replay used even to challenge calls that require a determination of “deliberateness”?

  21. LOL – sorry to laugh, but that is only as simple as calling for a new Pope or changing the godfather of the crime family.

    Sure it happens, but not when you want it.

  22. It Rugby Union at least (the type I am more familiar with), it is almost exclusively used for questions like was the ball touched down in the end zone for a try or was it done before a player was pushed out of bounds.

  23. Ten seconds? Really? It will take longer than that for the center ref to communicate that he wants to review the play.

    And who reviews? does there need to be a video feed for the 4th official to do it right down there by the crowd and both teams or do we add a 5th? I’m sorry, with 2 endline officials do we add a 7th? (hey, I like the endline officials for international competitions, but high schools in this country have a hard time getting 2 competent officials).

    And you have to view multiple angles, because the only thing worse than getting a fixable call wrong is implementing the fix in an insufficient way.

  24. I think the easiest solution is to add goal-line refs, as the speed of the game at the top professional and international level has advanced to a point where three refs (and only two per half of the field) can monitor the action on the field effectively.

    That said, the passion that is displayed from people arguing is pretty impressive. If everyone agreed with the major calls, some of the speculation and animosity that helps to build rivalries and fan bases would not exist.

  25. Hey Uniteo, how about making replay only allowed within the penalty area?

    That’s where almost every blown call I can think of happens anyway.

  26. i really can’t fathom all of you nuts who still oppose instant replay when a referee clearly gets a call wrong on a dive or an offsides call that affects the result in practically EVERY GAME these days. you must realize that to casual sports fans who only follow soccer every four years and see these players falling over themselves like frauds and rolling around faking injuries and referees who obviously have no control over the game, it makes the sport look ABSOLUTELY PREPOSTEROUS. i’ve been a die-hard soccer fan since 1994 and even i can hardly stand it anymore…

  27. i haven’t seen one argument on any of these boards that that shouldn’t have been called as a handball on Henry.

    We’re not proposing to stop the matches to take a few minutes to debate over whether replay is appropriate. We’re proposing taking 1 to 2 minutes to look at the 2 or 3 or 4 angles available on film using technology so that those angles will be almost instantly available.

    I agree that in many instances it could take a few minutes even with video replay to come to a conclusion (and that conclusion would sometimes be – we can’t tell).

    However, the Henry play gives a near perfect example of how video replay could work effectively and easily. For Henry’s situation it would take 10 seconds for a video official to clearly see the handball, 5 seconds to radio to the main referee that it was a handball, and then Ireland would have the free kick going the other way, with possibly a yellow card for Henry.

  28. This is how instant replay should work.

    1. It should only be used after a goal.

    2. Its a coaches option to use it to challenge the goal.

    3. If a coach uses his ONE challenge per game and the goal is NOT over turned then he loses one of his substitutes. If he is out of subs then his team must go down a man.

    I will take all nominations as the new head of FIFA. Thanks

  29. Here we go … let’s make 20 new rules, let’s make up rules so ridiculous that we cannot even recognize the game !

    Why not add time outs ?

    Why not add helmets so players don’t injure their head ?

    Why not add lines every 10 yards so the free kicks are marked ?

    Why not put shoulder pads on the players so they look big and fat …

    whoa .. just like the NFL !

    cool .. we can call it football.

    Think about it, the interpretation for handball is subjective as it is – can you imagine coaches calling for replays ?

    Can you imagine stopping break away runs to check the video ?

    Can you imagine waiting to celebrate a goal until AFTER the replay ?

    Maybe we add five or six more officials in zebra stripes ?

    God – why not just allow blocking, running with the ball in hands and give 3 points for kicking the ball OVER the goal post !

  30. In this discussion, you’ve made some good points about the challenges that implementing any type of replay system would represent. With this post, however, you have regressed and you don’t make a single point that supports your argument. You have also failed to make a single clever point.

    Seeing teams prosper specifically by breaking rules makes me less interested in following the sport. I think many if not a majority, of soccer fans, sports fans, and people in general share my view. That warrants trying to use available tools and resources to fix those problems.

    I think its perfectly reasonable to want some type of video replay system set up for the big tournaments and games or big leagues, etc. without wanting more rules of the sport to be changed to make the game closely mimic american football.

  31. I really believe technology should be used to determine if the ball went past the line. Other than that, I do believe replay would slow the game down.

    Whether people like to admit to it or not, FIFA wants to manipulate the results.. There can be no other explanation for the constant inconsistent refereeing.

  32. I don’t think ‘stoppages’ would take as long as people make it seem.

    Reviewing France’s handball could have been done in the time they spent celebrating the goal. Thus, no additional time is lost from the game. Except the ref just restarts the game by giving Ireland a free kick inside their own box (and disallowing the goal) rather than having them kickoff from the center circle – and the same amount of stoppage time is added as it would have been originally.

    FIFA must be thrilled that both France and Portugal have qualified for the World Cup by taking advantage of FIFA’s “make the rules up as you go along” system. Seeding the playoff teams when it was realized that two of the world’s top teams were in danger of missing out on the 2010 World Cup, was nothing more than an attempt to secure these “big clubs” a place in the World Cup finals. What’s behind such an arrogant and unfair decision–money! Big clubs equate to big attendance, more revenue, and more excitement, at least in the eyes of the perverted FIFA team members.

    FIFA–the apparent self proclaimed god of football–continued to flaunt their untouchable status in claiming that the France goal stands because of the “rules”. Hypocrites, you’ve already demonstrated that you make the rules up as you go along, so do the right thing–make up another rule that allows Ireland a fair opportunity at qualifying for the World Cup.

    The recent decisions from FIFA have demonstrated that they are more concerned with financial implications than with fair play. Football fans worldwide, this is your opportunity to declare to FIFA that we (the fans) are the true god of football. Hit FIFA where it hurts–in their pocket book. Follow me in boycotting all FIFA sponsors. Refuse to buy their products until FIFA make amends for their wrongdoings.

    After all, what kind of message have FIFA sent to the footballing youth–the stars of the future–by standing by and refusing to correct a blatant and unquestionable handball? It’s okay to cheat! In a court of law this is an open and shut case–a confession, video evidence and millions of eye witnesses, yet in FIFA’s money hungry world the case does not even make it to the courtroom. I wonder if it had been Ireland that scored such a goal. Speaking of a court of law, the economic impact of FIFA’s blatant arrogance and refusal to submit to the “fair play” banner they fly so high, will be enormous to the Irish economy. In their refusal to do the right thing FIFA have “stolen” billions of dollars from the nation of Ireland. Surely justifiable litigation could be brought against FIFA for their actions.

    It’s time for video replay and don’t even start with the argument that it will break the consistency and the flow of the game. Ridiculous footballers have already done this by rolling around on the ground for hours on end in attempt to waste time.

    Get real FIFA or get out and let someone who really has the sport of football as their number one interest take charge.

  34. No to instant replay in soccer (football) the beautifal game is that cause it continues without having to stop..Keep the game untouched,,,

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