June 28, 2010

South Africa to Santa Barbara Day 18: Is Replay Needed at the World Cup?

A slew of questionable and missed calls by officials has the soccer world pondering whether existing technology should be utilized during games.


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The headline splashed across SI.com's front page read "This is an absolute joke." The tabloids in England were, surprisingly, more forgiving for FIFA and the refereeing, instead placing the blame on the team, the defenders, even calling for head coach Fabio Capello to step down.

But, the issue cannot be ignored. FIFA needs to make a change.

Early on in this World Cup, United States' fans and players were upset - and rightly so - with the refereeing, most notably in the match against Slovenia when Koman Coulibaly ruled against what would have been a victorious goal for the U.S.

If Major League Baseball can accept rule changes and institute replay for certain aspects of its games, then soccer can too. MLB is kind of like The Master's - an old boys club that follows rules set in place decades ago. Why? "Because that's the way we've always done it," the responses ring.

Rather than just accepting things as they were, FIFA needs to accept things as they are. With billions of fans watching worldwide, the governing rules of soccer need to act appropriately. If everyone with a television set can see something (such as an apparent goal), then the referees need to be informed of that too.

No replays should be done like the NFL, where the 90-second review rule is a suggestion rather than an enforcement, causing as much stoppage time as playing time. It slows down the action with the possibility of four challenges a game between two teams and replays within the final two minutes of each half. Yawn. It kills momentum.

But, there should be something - anything - to determine if there is a goal or not. Especially on the world's biggest stage. The head referee should have the ability to review goals. That's it. Not offsides. Not penalties. Not the flops. Just goals.

They are so few and far between that a goal can mean a team's advancement or four more years of consternation. For FIFA to defend itself and say nothing will change is to live in an era when there is no replays, no camera angles from every corner of the pitch, no super-duper slow motion.

If the average fan can see all of this and every play-by-play and analyst can debate it mere seconds after it happened, why can't the supposed top officials in the biggest tournament in the world?

Make the change, FIFA. If you want people to continue to believe in the power of the World Cup, to not brush your organization off as a joke, as old-timey and short-sighted, you need to move forward. Even step into the year 2000. It would be better than where you are now.

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