After the Ireland-France debacle, I wrote about FIFA’s continued complete resistance to any kind of video review is shockingly shortsighted. My brief suggestion of a rugby-like system provoked the usual howls of “It’ll take too long!” and “It’ll ruin our game!” and “It’ll make soccer just like ‘throwball!'” and on and on. There were a lot of “slippery slope” arguments, which don’t tend to move me except on subjects of real, serious, non-sporting importance such as freedom of speech.
So, in response, I have attempted here to lay out more specifically my vision for video review in soccer. I include the key points of the video review program along with some commentary in italics.
1. Replay can only be used in specific situations, three of which relate directly to the decision to give or takeaway a goal.
a) Replay can be used to review whether a ball, in the direct run-up to a goal, left the field of play.
This prevents cases like that disallowed Spain goal in 2002 where a ball that clearly remained in play was called out-of-bounds. In my mind, this rule could technically be applied anywhere on the field, as long as it happens within a roughly 15-second window of a supposed goal being scored. Remember, the only thing they are reviewing in this situation is whether a ball left the field of play.
b) Replay can be used to review whether a ball crossed the goal line completely.
Especially as players are typically running off to celebrate while others protest, this would be an appropriate time to stop the match to review this simple one-or-the-other situation.
c) Replay can be used to determine whether an attacking player used his/her hand to contact the ball in the direct run-up to a goal. (This is the “Henry clause”)
Please note, replay cannot determine a defensive handball or subsequent penalty. That remains solely in the hand of the on-field officials. I feel that constant appeals for defensive handballs would slow the match down and lead to confusion. Plus, a supposed goal provides an adequate stoppage while most defensive handball appeals do not
d) Replay can be used to determine whether a foul took place inside or outside the penalty area BUT NOT to determine whether the tackle should be judged a foul.
Key note here is that replay cannot be used to determine whether a challenge was or was not a foul, it can only be used if the referee determines a foul occured, but wants to review whether the foul was inside or outside the penalty area. As the referee has already stopped play for a foul, no additional stoppage is required.
2. Replay cannot be used to:
i) Determine whether a tackle is worthy of a foul or card
ii) Determine a foul other than handball (and even only then if it is by the attacking player) and only if it directly leads to a goal
iii) Determine any aspect of the offsides rule
iv) Determine whether or not a player simulated receiving a foul
3. In the event of an overturned goal, play will restart with a free-kick in the case of an attacking handball, or throw-in/goal-kick as appropriate. If a goal is overturned for the ball not crossing the goal line, the ball will be moved to mid-field a drop-ball used to restart play. (Looking for better options here). In the unlikely situation that a goal is scored directly after a goal is wrongly-ruled a no-goal, the first goal will be upheld but the second will be waved off. (I’ve heard this very unlikely scenario and the fears of a resulting “riot” as reasons that “replay could never work.” Sorry, i I don’t take potential rioting into account as a method of making rules.)
4. Referees and ARs will use their headsets to communicate with a fourth “replay” official located in a private booth-like area. The fourth official will be able to recommend reviews to the center referee during play but won’t be able to review plays unilaterally. Only the referee can make a referral to the replay referee. Referees and video referees would use the standard of incontrovertable evidence to overturn a call on the field. Otherwise, the center referee’s call stands.
My biggest concern is that while I have tried to eliminate any “judgement calls” from the review process, one nasty one remains – “the direct run-up to a goal.” That determination will be solely in the hands of the referee in potential consultation with the ARs, 4th official and replay official. I would prefer that there not be this big grey area in the system, but I suspect that some quantity of grey is unavoidable. Are there better determinations of that?
Additionally, there will be those aghast that my system doesn’t involve itself at all with offside appeals. Simply put, if I only used it to rule-out goals that prove via video to be offside, it would vastly favor the defense and if I allowed goals that are ruled offside on the field, but that are determined via video to be onside, I think you would end up with the much-feared glut of reviews. Is this a bit of a punt on the issue? Yes. The reality is that the offside rule is a not-all-that-great solution to a very difficult problem to solve. Maybe someday a different form of technology will exist that will be able to determine offsides quickly and accurately. Until then, I don’t feel like you can “open that can of worm” reasonably.
I know the system is not perfect. There are surely some questions and situations I have not thought of. Please bring them up in the comments. My hope was that this quite limited system could relieve those who fear the game being constantly stopped by reviews of judgement calls.
One final note, I don’t advocate a “coach’s challenge” system because I don’t like the idea that ensuring good officiating becomes a tactical element of the game. I think those two elements should remain walled off from each other. I understand that connecting challenges to tactical elements like time-outs in football is to ensure that players/teams don’t “over-challenge,” I think the limited scope of my system reaches that outcome while keeping tactics and officiating sequestered.
I’ll admit that I am less interested in hearing from those who simply believe that there is no place for video review in the sport. What I want to hear most are suggestions, tweaks, and new ideas that could be used in a video review system. If my system is wrong, how could it get better?
Also, If there are referees and ARs out there reading this, I am especially interested in hearing your views.