Soccer’s luddite leadership strikes again

Dumb and Dumber: Blatter and Valcke

On Saturday, FIFA, through its International Football Association Board, ruled the end to all discussion, speculation, and experimentation with any kind of technological or video review for soccer.

It’s the kind of short-sighted, arrogant nonsense we’ve come to expect out of sport’s worst governing body.

“The door is closed. Let’s keep the game of football as it is,” said Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s general secretary.

It’s the kind of decision that could only really come from FIFA, an organization utterly divorced from what actually matters within the sport.

What does FIFA have to say about the troubling system of smuggling poor Africans to European academies. Nothing.

What does FIFA have to say about its officials being irredeemably corrupt. Nothing.

What does FIFA have to say about the tsunami of debt poised to wash across the European game? Nothing.

But what does FIFA say when proponents of goal/no-goal technology attempt to bring soccer in-line with almost every single other major team sport in the world? They say, “Football is perfect,” as the Telegraph put it. “Time for lunch.”

It’s a disgrace, and it’s going to lead almost surely to a major World Cup match being determined by an indisputably incorrect call. And that costs us soccer fans in this country.

American sports fans do not sit well with the degree of injustice that can arise with just a single missed call in a soccer match. It goes against a basic expectation of fairness that comes with an American culture not mired in class-oriented disputes, resentment, and resignation going all the way back to feudal times. It’s not merely enough for soccer fans in this country to shrug, and go “that’s just the way it is.” The “way it is” is dead wrong and American sports fans are smart enough to see through that.

When people, especially in this country*, talk about how moronic soccer’s rules are, this, along with the continued acceptance of diving within the culture of the sport is what they mean. This decision will only further tarnish our sport when the inevitable botch comes at a World Cup.

And when the usual media suspects say how soccer is a joke and how it will never catch on because of this kind of nonsense, really, what will we, as soccer fans, have left to say?

The answer is, nothing.

* I should add that there is lots of criticism of soccer as a sport outside of the United States. Just ask those in the rugby community what they think of soccer’s wussified diving culture or ask those around cricket what they think of soccer’s total lack of respect for its own rules and officials. Remember, just because someone stupid like Jim Rome or Jay Mariotti says it, doesn’t make it wrong.


33 thoughts on “Soccer’s luddite leadership strikes again

  1. Just a small quibble: IFAB =/= FIFA, although it’s clear in this case there’s no disagreement between the two.

  2. I am in favor of goal-line technology that improves the accuracy of goals without impacting the flow of the game. There was a goal line technology that was supposed to send a signal to the referees earpiece when the entirety of the ball enters the goal, but FIFA just drags its feet on this. Seemed liked a win-win to me in that accuracy would improve without any pause in the live action to review a play. Video replays I oppose because they interrupt the flow of the game which is an essentialy characteristic of the game.

    Everything else in your post I wholeheartedly agree with, including your observation that soccer needs to address diving, which despite some efforts to stamp out this practice continues to happen with more regularity than I would like. I would also add that the time wasting tactic of feigning or exaggerating injury desperately needs to be addressed. One way would be for injury time to actually reflect the amount of time it takes to remove the injured, or allegedly injured, players from the field.

  3. 2. A man’s game

    Wayne Shelford, the former All Blacks No 8, had his scrotum ripped open by France and played on. Dida, the AC Milan goalkeeper, got flicked on the cheek by a fan and was carried off.”

    Says it all.

    I’ve always wondered why that’s not done.

  4. Thank God that everyone isn’t as short sighted as FIFA. It is the most popular pro game in the world, despite the fact that it doesn’t try and appease our shortsighted closed league sports establishment – yeah, the one that imposes closed leagues, and the single entity systems that control clubs enough to make it work.

    Americans love soccer, they just don’t like MLS. If diving discouraged fans, the NBA would be in serious trouble.

    And then toddle out that straw man – the debt monster that is eating club soccer.

    Chomp Chomp. Portsmouth might get relegated. Chomp Chomp. Leeds United.

    Scary monster. Not quite scary enough to force other leagues to control their clubs, and enforce mediocrity on each one, and take supporters and owners out of the equation in order to randomize match outcomes.

    Turn your critical eye away from Sepp Blatter, and onto the inability of our league to reach a majority of soccer fans in this country…. Sepp ‘aint so bad after all.

  5. Jesus Christ on a Cracker. Is there any blog post that you can’t pervertedly twist into a platform for your shitcockery?

  6. I could understand if IFAB said “nothing is good enough to use at this moment.” But to rule out further experimentation is a mistake.

    I hate the replay rules in American football – just makes a game that is already too slow even worse. I guess soccer could allow a ref to review a replay of a goal/non-goal call at the next stoppage.

    The diving situation is very difficult. The ref is looking to see if a foul was committed first and foremost, and only secondarily for a possible dive. And plays like in last week’s NED-USA match, when Bornstein definitely pulled Sneider’s arm but definitely did not pull him down, are a real quandry for the ref. Since he called a PK (which I agree with), he didn’t call the embellishment (which I disagree with).

    Any player that hits the ground and stays there long enough to stop play should have to sit out for 5 minutes “just to make sure he’s ok”. That will encourage players to get up off their butts and play.

  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

    Show Sepp how he can personally profit from goal-line technology and you will see it implemented across the board by the following week.

  8. Was just talking with an old friend about this. He’s a huge hockey and American football fan, but likes soccer and would be more of a fan except the diving and embellishment completely turns him off. I’m sure there are tons like him in this country, we really don’t like athletes acting like pansies.

  9. Hey,

    You just, just managed to make your usual drivel relevant to my post.

    If you insist on hijacking my posts for your soccer version of Paul-tard, truther blather, I’ll delete your comments every single time.

    If it’s relevant to the subject or discussion, fine. But otherwise, can it.

  10. Dear god that made me wince in agony just reading it! Ruggers are psychotically manly…

    Diving and fake injuries should be eliminated. Any exaggerated injury should require the player to remain off the pitch for a minimum of three minutes or something. Sure his team gets a free kick, but they will be man down until he is “recovered” at the end of his time. Should knock out the crap, no?
    I guess if that happened we would never see the “beauty” of many Latin American teams. Some of those guys *ahem, Blanco* should have been in Hollywood last night.
    The bad thing is the faking leads to real injuries like Holden’s against the Netherlands to not be taken seriously at first.
    The goal line – ball chip thing was a brilliant idea. Not instituting it is a disgrace. It would not eleiminate “hand of god” goals, but at least it would confirm or deny balls that pop in and out quickly.
    Instant reply is a definite no no.

  11. Steady, boy!

    That’s better.

    Remember: Dr. Paul doesn’t endorse Trutherism. Unfortunately, a large swath of Truthers think he does and claim him as one of their own. So goes grand delusion.

  12. This is moronic, the level of embellishment and play-acting in basketball is nowhere near the level of soccer.

    And I agree that it’s extremely difficult to enforce. I think after-the-fact fines and suspensions are a start. Things like Sneijder’s exaggerated fall in the US-Netherlands game probably shouldn’t even be called (he executed it very well, and players should get the benefit of the doubt), but if players know there’s a good chance of being called on it I think they’d be much less likely to do it.

  13. That’s a fair point. I was alluding mostly to the Paul’ites’ methods which include just posting everywhere on the web during the campaign. There was a point last summer where you couldn’t look at an online poll regarding Brett Favre’s future without finding that 70% had voted for Ron Paul.

    I didn’t intend on making a point regarding Paul’s views nor do I want to discuss them here.

  14. “American sports fans do not sit well with the degree of injustice that can arise with just a single missed call in a soccer match. It goes against a basic expectation of fairness that comes with an American culture not mired in class-oriented disputes, resentment, and resignation going all the way back to feudal times.”

    …and the degree of injustice that regularly occurs in College Football (BCS system, constant accusations of referee bias/incompetence…)? I agree that not having goal-line technology would put off the American public (besides being an idiotic move on the IFAB’s part), but let’s not act like it’s because of any sort of cultural superiority.

    BTW, last I saw, Australia got absolutely jobbed at the last World Cup and their soccer just keeps on growing.

  15. And 90% of college football fans want to scrap the BCS in favor of a playoff. I don’t think there is any inconsistency there, nor do I think valuing fairness is a “cultural superiority”. However, because we haven’t grown up in a sports culture that eschews technology in favor of traditionalism, it is very hard for most Americans to understand why anyone would defend a flawed officiating system.

    Now, more generally…

    Honest question to all the people who dislike the NFL replay system: do you really feel 5 minutes total of video review in a game that lasts 3 hours is that much of a slow-down? Isn’t the extra 5 minutes worth it to get the right call, which after all, is the only job of the officials?

    Another honest question: to those opposed to replay in soccer, what would be the problem with reviewing goals and penalty kick calls only? Give the benefit of the doubt to the offense on offsides, goal/no-goal, etc. and if a goal is scored, review for perhaps 60 seconds before the kickoff. If the goal shouldn’t have been scored, give the defence a goal kick. Same with penalty kicks, call penalties very tightly, and anytime there is a PK call do a 30 second review and if there shouldn’t be a PK, give the defense a goal kick. There would be maybe 3-4 reviews of 3-4 minutes total each game, and you would eliminate 90% of the major mistakes. You could even have a 5th official in the booth doing the review so the center referee wouldn’t need to jog to a video monitor each time.

  16. American fans don’t hate MLS. They hate the Sounders…for bringing this troll up from under his bridge.

  17. The ref in one of the US qualifiers (El Salvador I think but maybe CR) got fed up enough with what was truly horrific delay (cramping issues) that he gave 7 mintues, and he refused to allow the worst repeat offender back onto the field for a couple of minutes. I think that is an excellent way to address it — you’re rolling around on the ground screaming? immediate call for the stretcher, and you stay on the sidelines for two or three minutes before being allowed back on.

  18. Any player taken off on a stretcher is out for the rest of the game as a safety precaution. Would at least put an end to that nonsense.

    I’d like to point out that Holden had a real injury and he walked off.

  19. It’s b/c of the American mentality. Regardless of the sport, we are all brought up to “take it like a man” when we get banged up. That’s why hockey players will break their fingers, noses, etc. and keep on playing. Perhaps if the rest of the world didn’t act like namby pambies, soccer would not have the wuss rep in the US. US born & bred players – for the most part – seem to play with some dignity (I know I just opened the door for examples to the contrary). Lower level players here provide the best proof, BTW.
    Props to Stuart and godspeed on his recovery.

  20. i agree completely that soccer’s incompetent leadership is indirectly hurting soccer’s popularity in the USA. American sports fans won’t stand for the diving and missed calls. i think MLS needs to take the lead on replay technology and show the rest of the world how it should be done. if the equivalent of Henry’s Handball had happened in the Super Bowl or the World Series Americans would have gone insane…

  21. Hi,
    although it is off topic, the following interview with FIFA-critical journalist Andrew Jennings shows a little bit more about Sepp Blatter and his buddies and how they make politics…

    Well, what do we learn by reading this interview? Some more millions, and they would change the rules…

  22. If only. In the first place, when there’s a lot at stake, they’re reviewing nearly every play. The problem for me is that the game is already interminably slow; you say its a game that “lasts three hours” and I wince because there’s only 4 15-minute periods. 1 hour clock time is already loaded up with 200% wasted time; and now they’re making it *worse*? Video review is the last straw.

    Slippery slope. Pointy-ball shouldn’t take 3 hours, but it does. Soccer games are almost always decidable in less than 2 hours and that is as it should be- but you introduce video review and that goes out the window.

  23. Even in the Texas-Alabama BCS game (and that one had alot of reviews) there were still what, 6 maybe 7. So saying the officials review every play is a bit disingenuous.

    As for slippery slope, you are aware the slippery slope arguement is a logical fallacy right? You don’t argue against goal/no-goal reviews because you think throw in reviews are a bad idea, you debate each issue as they come up. If goal line reviews are ever approved and someone proposes reviewing every mid-field foul or out of bounds play, then you argue against how it would slow down play. Debate goal line review on the merits of goal line review.

    Despite what it seems, I’m not trying to dump on you, and I do appreciate the honesty, but it seems you are exaggerating the problem with reviews a bit.

  24. I don’t watch that much football, but doesn’t each team have a limited number of challenges that lead to video replays? As far as soccer goes, I don’t think one or two per team per game would slow things down too much.

  25. Depends on if you are talking NFL or College rules. In the NFL each team has two challenges. When a coach feels an on-field call was incorrect, he signals the referee (by throwing a red marker onto the field) and the offical reviews the call himself at a video monitor on the sideline. In college football there is a separate replay official up in the booth who checks the replay of every play while the ball gets reset. If there is nothing in the review to make him doubt the on-field call, play continues, but it he sees something questionable, he contacts the referee via a communicator, and the play is given a more in-depth review by the replay official. In this way every play gets a cursory double check and review is taken out of the hands of the players and coaches. So in theory, in college football there could be a protacted review that stops play on every snap if needed.

  26. If you’d prefer a different idiom, when the camel gets his nose in the tent, you’re in for a long night of pushing to keep the rest of him out. If video review ever enters soccer, kiss the two-hour game goodbye. Forever.

    That’s from my perspective as a fan responding in the context of the delays witnessed in the 3-hour+ gridiron game. As a soccer fan, I also have a problem with undermining the institutional structure of the game that makes the referee the ultimate authority on the pitch. You can give the referee tools – a watch, a whistle, even a comm link – but he or she has to rely on fitness to achieve positioning, knowledge to enforce the Laws, and wisdom to manage the Game – and keep it flowing. That’s what the Game is about, that’s what makes it so different from everything else. I can’t see a place for video review in that. Call me a purist- I care about the potential of video interruptions to delay the flow and ultimately to ruin the Game.

  27. Rugby league has the closest to best way I’ve seen: Just about every try is reviewed if there’s any doubt. Most times it’s pretty clear one way or the other. If rugby league, which in case anyone forgot doesn’t nearly bring in the $$$ soccer does, can do it, so can the top leagues in FIFA, and in internationals as well.

  28. Call me a purist – I care about a team qualifying for the World Cup over the course of two years and another not because the referee missed a handball in the box that led to the clinching goal, ultimately ruining the Game. The system as it currently stands is a complete and total joke, I will never be convinced otherwise.

    They once had a poll on Sportsnation on ESPN asking whether in their favorite sports they wanted the right call or the game to move along. In the U.S. the margin was 2-to-1 in favor of getting the right call. Humans make mistakes and the human error element of soccer is held up as one of “the beautiful aspects of the game”. If that’s the case, why do I see people b*tching about the referee after most games on this forum?

  29. You missed the vital clause in his argument. It’s really hard for a college football ref to just give a victory to a team, because one bad call won’t do it. In soccer, not so hard.

    Fair point, especially as they arguably have an even more classless society than ours. I don’t know what their sporting culture is like, and whether they’re used to clubs that ‘accept their lot in life’ as we tend not to have in the US, but it is a fair point that controversy itself can grab attention for an upstart sport.

    To tie this in with the ‘trutherism’ side-issue, making yourself annoyingly controversial-for-its-own-sake is a great way to go from being a 1% cause to a 10% cause, but the closer you get to the mainstream, the more it’s going to start hurting you. Annoyance is a pretty cheap form of recognition.

  30. Although this entry is about technology and the decision not to use it, there have been comments made regarding diving and embellishment. I don’t mean to hijack the thread, but this is a sore subject for many of us.

    Three things need to be done before this type of behavior becomes less common:

    1) as others have said, require a mandatory sit-out time when play is stopped for an “injury;”

    2) require the referee crew to actually show the time lost as soon as the incident is over, as they would at the end of the half and full times, via the fourth official, so there’s a way of tracking time to be added for each specific case of injury, whether legitimate or questionable;

    3) institute post-match video review during which fines and suspensions can be meted out. These cheats are getting better and better at it, and it’s becoming harder and harder to see it. Allow for video review and fine and suspend the cheaters BIG TIME.

    Something needs to be done. It’s getting ridiculous.

  31. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is the cost of implementing a goal line system, especially in the poorer federations/leagues. From my understanding, the LOTG apply to all FIFA-sanctioned matches, no matter where they are played. Would those same rules apply to matches the in Benin Premiere League?

  32. Your whole post seems predicated on how the world should make sure they make alterations to the game they love in order to appease American fans.

    I don’t know that a country that cares much less in general about the game and has had much interest in it at all only recently should be able to come in and call the shots just because America is a wealthy country with a big population.

    The rest of the world doesn’t care how they need to change the game to make Americans like it. The rest of the world has been happly playing for a couple hundred years and likes things quite well as they are. It may not be as big in the US, but it is the biggest game on the planet. More popularity isn’t really a problem soccer needs to solve in a global sense.

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