My specific video replay “proposal”

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.

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19 thoughts on “My specific video replay “proposal”

  1. Three problems.

    1) Limiting review to inside/outside the penalty area is asking for trouble. What if the replay shows that it was a clear dive inside the penalty area? In your system, the ref would have to stare at that and say, “Yes, it was a dive, but the dive took place inside the penalty area. Penalty kick.”

    2) Let’s say the ref lets play contine when one team though the ball was in the goal. When does the review of whether the ball crossed the goal line completely take place?

    3) Probably the biggest problem from FIFA’s point of view. The net effect of this system will be to take goals away. Most calls that lead to goals get reviewed and most calls or non-calls that prevent goal scoring (especially phantom offides) don’t. As long as a replay system has the effect of decreasing the number of goals scored, FIFA will never adopt it.

  2. That’s a very good point and one I didn’t foresee. That might be enough for me to just ruleout using replay on those kinds of decisions then.

    Either at the next stoppage or at the next moment when the referee stopping play won’t interrupt an attack. It’s not perfect, but workable.
    Maybe, but if it sees a World Cup final or semifinal devalued in the eyes of fans by an Henry-level wrong call, I think the number of goals won’t matter nearly as much to FIFA.

  3. My only concern is what level review starts to be implemented. Just the WC? WCQ? Will the small Oceania countries have the capability of having the same level of technology in their stadiums as England, the US, etc.?

    I think that’s as big a barrier as anything else, but not often talked about.

  4. I don’t think it’s all that big of barrier. Use it in the biggest competitions where the matches matter most. Use it in just the biggest tournaments and maybe in qualifying playoffs (like France-Ireland) where single calls are magnified most by the paucity of matches played.

  5. Decent proposal. People can tit for tat all they want about this detail or that. If FIFA agreed to use replay, a viable system that did not affect the flow of the game could be developed and implemented, addressing all of the nitpicking as to why it wouldn’t work.
    Sepp and Co really have no basis for denying the use of replay except that it takes the game out of the hand of the on-field ref, thereby limiting the possibility of match-fixing.
    I have no doubt that Sepp has a nice bank account in the Seychelles filled by the Triads everytime he says video replay will never happen.

  6. You anticipated my objection about “run up to the goal.” I don’t think soccer needs more subjectivity.

    To chapka’s point, from my perspective, calls or non-calls that prevent goal chances are the most frustrating, but there is no adequate remedy.

  7. what’s the point of having video replay if it can’t be used to punish diving? diving is the biggest problem with the game today.
    i agree correcting offsides calls is problematic, but something must be done, linesmen get offsides calls wrong at least 20-30% of the time in my experience… and i think MLS will have to take the lead on this issue ‘cos FIFA will never do a goddamn thing.

  8. The referee’s position as sole arbiter of the Laws Of The Game on the pitch vastly predates the current corrupt era of Blatter et al. The biggest problem with many of the changes proposed in recent years – video replay, goal-line technology, etc – is that diluting the referee’s position has the potential of undermining his or her authority in every other game-impacting decision. You take away El Arbitro’s absolute authority and he’s just a zebra in a striped shirt like any other, and the game suffers the death of a thousand protests.

  9. By keeping the ability to refer to the video referee in the hands of the center ref, don’t you think his/her authority is maintained?

  10. Aaron – I commend you for trying to organize a logical solution to what you precieve is a problem.

    However, there seems to be too much weight against the process of implimenting such video replay.

    I can understand that you want to put emphesis on the World Cup matches and maybe even some play-off games.

    This puts into question two situations:

    1. Who determines what matches are important enought to merit video assistance ? I would venture that to some nations, preliminary qualifying matches ARE their World Cup. Who would pick up the cost to send this video equipment, and/or its trained users to say the Carabbean ? Maldives ? Madagascar ?

    2. How would this diviate from professional league football ? Would those games not be as important – near promotional matches, near relegation matches, cup semi-finals. Third Division promotion play-offs ?

    Lastly, while you have tried to limit the game situations in which video would be used, what would prevent more and more reliance on this technology as offside, diving, shirt-pulling and dangerous or near dangerous tackles effect the game ?

    Just another point of view (as would a video be) …

  11. I honestly think replay should never been done if the game has to be stopped for it to occur.

    I also think that all offside calls should be made exclusively by replay (or by an official using stop/start technology and instantly flagging it off or not within 3 to 5 seconds of the played ball). As it is, many offside calls don’t happen until that far out anyway.

  12. the problem with your proposal is that it doesn’t really address the biggest problem in the game, the penalty call/non-call.

    handballs and out of play in the run up to goals really don’t happen that often. goals scored from handballs are rare. balls that are rules in play and end up in the goal are probably just as rare.

    penalty decisions about inside or outside the box don’t happen all that often, probably more so than the other scenarios, but a lot of times the call isn’t even made because the ref thinks it’s not a legitimate chance at goal. why? because it’s on the outer border of the penalty area.

    goal-line decisions of in or out really don’t even happen that often and don’t affect the outcomes of games too often, think geoff hurst in ’66.

    i can deal with bad offside calls, but what everyone wants fixed is the penalty calls. i believe it’s very simple. all penalty calls get reviewed. this way the ref can call them more often then he does now without worry as to whether or not he got it perfectly right. there is then the option of allowing the penalty or giving an indirect kick in the opposite direction, and keep the nfl’s conclusive evidence to overturn the onfield decision. not perfect if player goes down without a foul or a dive, but would cut out a lot of diving (ref issues yellows for dives) and would get the penalties right more often because they’d get reviewed. diving and penalties affect the outcome of games far more often than any other scenario, and diving needs to be eliminated from the game as much as possible. it’s also important to remember that the flow of the game would be hardly interrupted.

    so no other plays really need reviewing. i would go with penalties and over the line goal decisions.

  13. I dont like you idea, it is extremely LIMITING.

    First the LEAST of the ref problems are IS THE BALL IN OR OUT…that RARELY HAPPENS!! Rarely is there a goal in which there is controvesy if the ball passed the line.

    Second, limiting to see if the foul was in the box or not is the SAME Thing. RARELY is the discussion if the foul was in or out but instead if it was a foul at all!

    So your proposal is weak at best!

    THE MAJOR PROBLEMS that happen every soccer games are:

    1- Was it Offside or not
    2- Was it a penalty or not

    Those are the 2 things that Replays should be focused on. PERIOD!

  14. PS:

    Ive written about it in the past on my Blog and here. The biggest problem is that in soccer you have ONE…1….40 year old man running a huge field with 22 World Class athletes trying to keep up and see EVERYTHING that is happening. You have players blocking his view, dives etc…all that 1 man has to see!! IMPOSSIBLE.

    Even Sports with less players and courts 1/8th the size of a soccer field have more refs, like Baseketball, Volleyball etc!!

    So BEFORE INSTANT REPLAY THEY NEED TO ADD 2 more Refs….or at least One More tu run opposite the main ref.

    Also Offside problems could be largely eliminated if they reduce offsides to withing the Penalty box line…forget midfield…just the PK Box to the goal.

    So you can reduce 75% of soccer bad calls by doing 2 things….add 1 or 2 extra refs and reduce the Offsides area. The last 25% could be resolved with Replays on certain calls.

  15. I was more responding to the notion that opposition to diluting the center’s authority was explained because he’s an easy target o guarantee a fixed match and the powers that be wouldn’t want to give up that convenience. This is a nonsense- there are plenty of reasons to avoid diluting that authority for the good of the game. WRT your specific question, if a place is made for video review then there will be pressure to increase it, adapt it to more circumstances, and thereby, potentially, dilute the Center’s authority. I don’t know if I support or oppose the idea – the Henry/France/Ireland situation is intolerable – but, the existing systems of control should have easily caught that; the AR should have been in position to see it. My real point is that old-fangled stick-in-the-mudmuddle-headed opposition to new technology is *often* rooted in this understanding that the authority of the Center must not be diluted. That’s the point- and not enough people seem to recognize it. SoccerScout, for example, wants a committee of referees. Egads.

  16. soccerscout has it right, but i don’t think i’d want to change offside to the penalty box line as it would affect the core of the game’s strategy, and i think we can live with bad offside calls because they can even out over the course of a game. i believe that the same is probably true for penalties, but only over a season so in tournaments and end of the season when a penalty is the difference between $10 and 30 million in television revenue diving to get a penalty call or cheating by tugging shirts and throwing elbows on a set piece is a really decent bet for a player to make. i don’t think throwing another ref into the mix would solve that problem completely either.

    i for one would like the referee to be able to call more shirt and arm tugging by defenders because it would lead to more goals scored…i think getting penalty calls reviewed would allow the ref to call those a little more often, especially where it matters: in the box.

  17. 1 a) is a problem. If the refs think the ball went out, they are going to react (i.e., blow whistle), which means the players in turn will react. This could ONLY work to determine that the ball went out but wasn’t called; it can’t work for the opposite situation for, whether right or not, when the ref blows the whistle, it impacts the game.

  18. I like everything that you have laid out. SoccerScout, if you’v ever seen a HS game here in the states with 2 or 3 guys on the field with whistles, you’d see how horrible your suggestion is.

    The only significant problem I see is when you have a situation where a goal was not allowed, but in reality the ball fully crossed the line. So when does play stop and what do you do with anything that happened after play stopped. What if someone received a yellow or red between the “goal-line incident” and the video review that allows the goal? Does a red stand? You mention that a subsequent goal at the other end could/should be waived, that’s a pretty bad situation to have happen. But if you’re going to waive that goal, you pretty much have to waive any potential cards too. Now you have a guy that just committed violent conduct and he’s still on the field – think the referee is going to have a hard time controlling retaliation?

    This is a huge area that could create very significant man-management problems for a referee. As a referee, man management is one of the biggest challenges we have. If we blow a call, yes, it can create problems. But everyone recognizes we’re human. Now, you’ve just PROVEN that we blew the call AND you’ve compounded our problems by having to take away a goal a the other end or having to leave a guy on the field that should be hitting the showers. Just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

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