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Replay Does Not Belong In Football


I’ve read with some interest recent posts on this website and others advocating some form of instant replay or goal line technology. Being an American with some understanding of the troubles instant replay has had in some American sporting leagues, I very openly and bluntly say, keep replay out of football.

Football is a unique game. It has won the world over largely due to its simplicity and constant flow. Football is a game which is complete in a two hour window and which like a movie or show does not stop except in a single intermission. Unlike the peculiar sporting culture in the United States which has accepted replay because American sports have a stop/start/stop/start flow, or lack of flow, replay could destroy the very thing that has made football so compelling. Even within the peculiar American sporting culture, instant replay has been less that stellar in its implementation and affect.

Replay’s history in the National (American) Football League is troubled. I will admit I have not watched a complete NFL match in over two years, but from 1981 through the early part of this decade I watched NFL every weekend. When Instant Replay was approved for 1986 season I recall the very first game involving the reigning Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears (against Cleveland if I recall correctly) had numerous problems with the replay system. Within a few years replays were such a detriment that broke up the flow of the game. After a few seasons it was shelved until around 1998 or so when it reappeared in a modified form. NFL owners needed assurances that replay would work better before bringing it back. Even with the modified replay system, more often than not blown calls are not reversed. Part of the reason the NFL lost my interest was the destruction of the flow of an already long slow game by the constant use of replays to review controversial calls. Replay also consistently breaks the momentum of the team who is controlling the action at the moment. In a possession oriented game like football which unlike many American sports can turn in an instant, the stifling of momentum can be deadly.

College (American) Football, a sport that has more of an emotional connection to its fans than professional (American) Football, began experimenting with replay a few years back on a conference by conference basis (think of College Football’s governing body the NCAA as UEFA and each conference as a domestic league.). Eventually in 2006, use of instant replay became universal in NCAA Football.

For a fan like myself who spends at least seven Saturday’s every fall in College Football stadiums, the change in rules has been disastrous. Not only have already long games become longer, but no limit exists on replays and more often than not if a call is controversial, the replay is determined to be inconclusive and the blown call is not corrected. What’s worse is in inter-conference match ups the field officials and the replay officials are often times from different leagues, leading to confusion. Now I realize the NFL has built in some safeguards against the problems replay has in the NCAA but it is still a nuisance when everything is said and done.

In College Basketball and the NBA replay has been used sparingly, to determine a game deciding shot relative to the clock. However, when replay has been used in College Basketball to determine whether a shooter was in front of or behind the three point line, I’ve heard snickers in the crowd about the length of time it takes to make these decisions and how much it affects the flow and momentum of the game. Considering Basketball is like American Football a game that starts and stops every few minutes, can you imagine what crowds in a nonstop frenzied atmosphere of an English Football ground will think about the time it takes the officials to sort out the replays.

If American Football, a slow game which tests the normal attention span of a human being is made even longer and dare I say in many cases more intolerably boring by replay, what happens to Football, a world sport whose very popularity is due as I stated above to its simplicity and quickness? In addition American sports as I have complained about in the past change and quite frankly manipulate their rules quite often to get a desired outcome. The NFL, NBA and other professional leagues in the TV and money driven American sports culture have changed its codified rules for one reason or another through the years. (One real infamous rules change in my opinion was when the NFL seemingly tired of the workmanlike New England Patriots beating the glamorous Indianapolis Colts of Peyton Manning, made it more difficult for defensive backs to use their hands to defend wide receivers. Patriot DBs Asante Samual and Ty Law had made a living outr of jamming the Colts receivers on pass patterns.) Football on the other hand has had fairly consistent rules and tactics for years now. Sure like all other sports rules and tactics evolve with the time, but unlike the sports invented by Americans, Football has been wildy successful as is. While the temptation to mess with a successful formula exists because of the many missed calls by officials, American sports teach us replay is far from perfect. Often times instant replay changes games not because of overturned calls but because the flow and momentum of the game are almost always affected due to the length it takes to view the replays. In football this would be a colassal mistake.

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  1. Pompeyluvva

    October 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Football is a game.
    Games have rules.
    The rules must be enforced.
    Enforcement must be correct.

    Enforcement is incorrect? Then the rules don't really exist.
    The rules don't exist? Then you don't have a game.
    You don't have a game? Then you don't have football.

  2. odessa steps magazine

    October 1, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I think a system like the one used in the NHL would be the most likely.

    Cameras decide a goal or not. Nothing else. And all the stadiums are wired back to a central office. Certainly this would not be a problem for the Premiership, but would be a hinderance to other levels of futbol.

  3. slipereypete

    October 1, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Title of the post should be: “The Correct Call Does Not Belong In Football”

  4. Simon Burke.

    October 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Well said Weston, i too would like technology to determine if a ball crossed a line. I would shy away from replays but I would love to see retroactive punishments for cheats. Football though is the ultimate bureaucracy , things move very slowly here, except for expanding the Euros and UEFA Cup, that got done very quickly … I wonder if money was the motivator (Shocker).

    Goalline technology… no excuse not to use it. Ask Aidy Boothroyd.

  5. Weston

    October 1, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Agreed…the first guy got it right. A tennis-style confirmation takes less than 5 seconds, so it wouldn't hold up the game.

    Something I WOULD like to see, though, is the FAs actually acting on the rediculous diving in the sport by reviewing tape of dramatized tackles and dishing out one game suspensions for the Ronaldo's, Drogba's, and Italian-national-team's of the world. The diving will only get worse unless they start to suspend players for it.

  6. AtlantaPompey

    October 1, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Put a chip in the ball. If it crosses the line, it notifies the fourth official, who can override a ref's decision through the communication system they already use. Otherwise, no replays. If a chip is too much, then put goal officials behind or next to each goal like in hockey. Their sole job is to light a lamp when the ball crosses the line.

    Do not disrupt the flow and momentum of the game for any reason. One of the main reasons I like football so much is the constant action. I just can't sit through hitball, throwball, or bounceball anymore without complaining about all of the starts and stops. I can't stand commerical interruptions, I don't want to watch endless replays, I will not tolerate players standing around arguing. Get it right with non-intrusive technology, put more officials in the stadium, but do not have instant replay.

  7. mikael

    October 1, 2008 at 10:35 am

    As #1 says, Tennis got it right. Give each team three challenges per game.

  8. timmyg

    October 1, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Which is more important: getting the calls right or more expedient games?

    Because it seems the neo-Luddites in FIFA, the FA, and UEFA are more concerned with the essence of the game remaining intact. Well, do you think if officials in the 1920s had this technology, they would use it? Probably yes.

    Making sure results aren't correct as long as the game isnt changed is reason #43824 why soccer will never catch on in the USA.

  9. timmyg

    October 1, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Which is more important: getting the game right, or creating the most expediency?

    Because it seems the neo-Luddites in FIFA, UEFA, the FA, etc etc don't really care about making sure the results are correct.

    Which is reason #91784 why soccer will never thrive in the USA.

  10. PorkRomeo

    October 1, 2008 at 5:58 am

    The blog is more of an indictment of video technology in the NFL. So you might want to change the title of the blog. No secret American sports fans dont mind the endless delays and stoppages. And TV folks will take on any reason for another commercial break.

    But Association Football, soccer, has become very fast, particularly in the PL, and the current refereeing system just does not work. A system could be put in place that would be less interruptive to the game than John Terry. Give each manager a challenge or two to help eliminate some of the more outrageous calls.

    Basically, I agree with Kartik that technology is unwelcome, but it goes like this: If you dont like bad calls, accept technology. If you dont like technology, shut up about bad calls. Pretty simple actually.

  11. Dave Griffiths

    October 1, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Agree with RIP…Goaline technology would be acceptable for me as the ref could wave play on and the game continues and if he was wrong the 4th official can buzz him and confirm it was a goal and only then does he need to stop the game.
    As far as a bad ref call on a tackle/peno etc…that's part and parcel of the game isn't it…the ref is going to get a few wrong due to the speed of the tackle/incident but I wouldn't want every bloody tackle being reviewed just because we have cameras at the game.
    Cameras should be used ONLY to determine if a ball actually crossed the line.

  12. Football-Shirt-Man

    October 1, 2008 at 4:27 am

    no need for this in football

  13. Football-Shirt-Man

    October 1, 2008 at 4:24 am

    i agree, i took my son to see american football threw some free tickets at work and the game lasted 4 hrs with these bloomin replays, keep replays out of football!

  14. RIP

    September 30, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Tennis does this right. A computer and cameras determine if the ball was in or out. It only takes a few seconds…all that is more done for drama then the limitations of the technology. I don't know if you could review anything else, but determining if the ball crossed the line is important.

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