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.
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, cricket, rugby 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.