Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


THE REFEREE AS SOCCER’S ‘SUGGESTOR’

World soccer’s rules-making body will have a look at the controversial issue of video replays.

The International Football Association Board will discuss “Video Replays for Match Officials,” the final item listed among “any other business” on the agenda for its next annual meeting, scheduled for March 1 in Zurich.   It is not clear who placed the topic on the agenda.  The possibility of video replay has been vigorously opposed by FIFA leadership in recent years.

Other matters to be discussed are the idea of ice hockey-style penalty boxes for recreational soccer, protective headwear for male players, and a ban on players who reveal personal statements on their undershirt.

The IFAB is made up of four members representing FIFA and one each from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  [February 4]

Comment:  So the group that green-lighted goal-line technology has decided to take another peek under the lid of Pandora’s Box.

Chances are this discussion next month will be nothing more than just talk, but it leaves the impression that video replays in soccer are inevitable.

That would be a victory for those who want the referee and his assistants to get it right all the time, whatever the cost.  And who, really, wants to see a match decided by officiating mistakes?  But video replay isn’t going to produce perfection–camera angles lie and sometimes everyone in the stadium misses a reason to request a video review.

Above all, video replay would be a severe blow to the authority of the officials.  Suddenly, the referee goes from being The Final Word on the field to The Suggestor.  He or she would be looked upon differently by players, coaches, spectators and the media once an incorrect call is not only fully exposed but officially goes into the books as a blunder that has to be reversed.

The referee is ridiculed, reviled, even despised, as it is, but his authority, when wielded appropriately, puts him on a par with a schoolteacher adequately keeping an unruly classroom under control.  Diminish that authority, and the overall player-referee dynamic flies out of control.  And, obviously, video replay would be used only at the game’s highest levels; thus, the top officials would be the ones falling the farthest.  Once the public sees a decision by Howard Webb or Viktor Kassai overturned, on the field, before a filled stadium and a national or worldwide TV audience, the standing of every referee below is indeed diminished.

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