When Will Soccer Officiating Get With the Times?

Sunday’s refereeing blunders, following the many glaring group stage errors, have reignited a debate over changing the sport’s rules. Some favor video replay, some favor an additional referee who would only monitor each goal area, while others would prefer a sensor-system for goals similar to that used in hockey. Of all the ideas, the addition of another referee seems to have the most realistic chance as it has already been implemented on an experimental basis in competitions like this past season’s Europa League.

However, the debate should not obscure the fact that goals like Frank Lampard’s simply have to be called correctly by the referees on the pitch. There were four eyes directly on the action, those of referee Jorge Larrionda and those of assistant Mauricio Espinosa. How did both these men blow the call? Are the assistants too timid to voice their opinion over the headsets (technology!) they use to communicate with each other? An additional referee stationed behind the goal may well have called Lampard’s call correctly, but keep in mind again that two were already watching the play today and still couldn’t get it right.

Moreover, before changing the rules, shouldn’t Fifa ensure that only the best of the best get to referee World Cup matches? If they are only using the best of the best then explain how Larrionda, who was suspended for six months for “irregularities” and forced to bow out of the 2002 World Cup, is allowed to referee in the most important tournament there is? Explain how referee Martin Hansson, he who allowed Thierry Henry’s handball goal, is even in South Africa working as a fourth official and on the list of reserve referees. Get the referee selection right, then worry about rule changes.

Of course, we may be asking too much of referees to make such crucial decisions when the game is faster than ever. All the more reason to give them better tools to work with. The traditionalists may bemoan any tinkering whatsoever. But then again, cricketrugby and tennis, all international sports with traditions, history, and conventionality that rival football, have all introduced technology to improve the chance that a call is made correctly.


  1. Gary June 28, 2010
    • Brian June 28, 2010
      • Ned D. June 29, 2010
      • hank June 29, 2010
        • Ned D. June 29, 2010
  2. Poker Rakeback June 29, 2010
  3. Pakapala June 29, 2010
  4. coachie ballgames June 29, 2010
  5. coachie ballgames June 29, 2010
  6. Eious June 29, 2010

Leave a Reply