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Should FIFA Use Live Video Review?

Yesterday, I considered the question of the name of our sport, football vs soccer. Today I jump on another question regarding the purity of the beautiful game: should we implement live video review? Please use the comment section to weigh in on this issue.

If I ever got dragged to a birthday party for FIFA President Sepp Blatter and was forced to stand up and say something nice about the guest of honor, the best I could probably muster is:

He’s got the coolest name in football after Titi Camara.

That’s wracking my brain under pressure to come up with a pleasantry for world football’s most powerfully controversial figure.

From pushing his absurd “home grown” rule where sides would need to field 6 domestic players in a starting line-up to suggesting that women’s football would be more popular if the players wore tighter shorts… From his labeling of Cristiano Ronaldo as “a slave” when Manchester United held onto him last summer to allegations that his 1998 election was rigged… Blatter will forever be known for doing and saying things that are outrageous and absurd.

But lo and behold, for once, he’s done something reasonable, something I actually agree with. Maybe I can say something nice at that party after all.

After last week’s Confederations Cup controversy over Howard Webb’s video-influenced penalty decision (described in more detail here by EPL Talk’s Rory Tevlin), Blatter announced that pitchside television monitors will be banned at international matches. Or at least turned so the fourth official cannot see them.

Banned, turned, switched over to Gordon Ramsay’s F Word: it doesn’t particularly matter. The important thing is FIFA avoid live video review in football at all costs.

There are those who say: But, look! It worked!

Supposedly, the fourth official saw the handball on the television monitor. He told Howard Webb ab0ut it. Webb had already given the corner kick, but now changed the call to penalty kick. Brazil converted and won it 4-3. So the call had been wrong. Webb corrected himself. Scant time was lost.

The main problem with video review in other sports is the stoppage it causes in play. Professional American football may be the worst perpetrator. The stoppage for video review is one of the many tools the NFL uses to keep a hold of the viewer for a good four hours. The officials will stop play to review close calls. And the coaches are each given a flag to toss on the pitch if they want to ask for a review. Mind-boggling considering the sport is an offspring of concise, 80-minute Rugby.

Don’t take this (or my previous article) as an attack on American football. It’s a wonderful sport. But the action comes in short bursts between time-outs, team changes and a steady helping of commercial breaks. If futbal football and Rugby football are great feasts, than American football is snacking between meals.

And now, baseball has sneaked video review into the mix! Only for limited use, they say. But it already has the officials taking time from game play to watch a video. “Sometimes it takes longer for the manager to get kicked out of the game,” said Dioner Navarro, glowing over the new procedure after catching during the first play that utilized video replay. Yes, Dioner, but at least a manager ejection is part of the action of a baseball game. The spectators have something thrilling to watch. Have you really stopped the game? I’m certainly not suggesting FIFA do away with ejections!

My fear is, with video replay, the MLB have opened the door for further stoppage. And there are those who would have FIFA do the same.

The argument, for now, is that Webb’s “use” of video review didn’t cause any stoppage because the monitor near the fourth official was a live feed. The use of it to overturn a decision was rapid and correct. But once we open that avenue, we are at risk for taking the concept to a debilitating extreme. What happens when we stumble across calls that are not so easy to review in haste. Soon we are stopping the match to consider the replay. In a game full of nuance, it will be tempting to use replay more frequently than we intend. Stoppage time piles up and our precious 90 minute time limit is obliterated. Or what happens when we decide the fourth official needs more information to make this work. We give him multiple monitors to cover all the off-the-ball action. Is he watching the television or the match? He’ll be removed from procedings. He may as well watch from home with his headset on.

The thing is we don’t need live video review. Officiating has always been and will always be fallible because the referees are human. But as long as they are equally human in both directions, the game is fair enough. The missed calls are something we all have to deal with. And no amount of technology will ever remove all the fallibility from officiating.

I use the term live video review in this piece because I am not opposed to post-match video review. Reversing incorrect bookings, discovering serial mistakes, or post-match punishment of players for bad tackles and dives could all be useful. To find the problems and correct them off the pitch won’t take from match play and could help officials learn from past mistakes while discouraging diving and dangerous fouls.

Live video review, though, is a road FIFA should never go down. Just play the game. Other sports should look to football, Rugby and any other sport that works hard to keep things moving. Video replay is an ill not a boon. FIFA must keep the door shut on it.

So for now, Mr Blatter, I applaud you, quietly, for turning the television around. A minor good decision that will surely, in the long view, be drowned in your sea of controversy. But at least I’ll have something nice to say on your birthday.

Tomorrow: do we expect too much from our International football?

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  1. kp

    August 18, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    well i think video refree should be ther because the refeess are not able to view each and every thing going on around them and they should bring video refees into play

  2. Erist

    July 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

    As mentioned, the diving and flopping and rolling around already interrupts the flow of the game quite a bit

    Live video for goal replays would be useful

    Post-match video review to overturn [or award] bookings, especially for diving, would help tremendously as well. Right now there is little incentive not to dive — it is very hard in the field of play to determine how hard contact was, and a ref risks looking insensitive for booking an injured player for diving. Having post match review and strict penalties would put incentives not to dive into the equation.

    The human-fallibility-is-part-of-the-game purists may have had something to stand on when most matches were watched live, but now that most of us can see slow-motion reverse camera angles one hundred times per game, it just makes egregious bad calls leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

    There is still plenty of latitude for refs in determining the flow of the game — what to caution for, etc etc etc — those will always be judgement calls. Things like whether a ball crossed the line or whether a player was in an offside position are generally easily cleared up in one or two viewings of slow motion.

  3. Noush

    July 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    It is only fair that the most popular game on earth bring some fairness and dignity to the game. I am so sick and tired of undeserving goals leading to the wrong team winning and wrong offside calls and fouls that go unnoticed. You don’t have to stop the game to do the review, the fourth umpire can do the review and message the main ref the wrong calls. It only takes 20 seconds to do a video review. Don’t you think play slows down when players are arguing with the ref? and also, one starts to wonder what is the main objective of the game? KEEP THE FLOW INTACT OR LET THE DESERVING TEAM WIN?

    read more here

  4. Uffe

    June 28, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Video is simple, fair, and neutral. Have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear. AND, like in tennis, a side (team) can have the right to call for video review x times during a match, say, like you can substitute x players during a match. Simple and easy and fair. C’mon, we’re in the 21st century now… hellooo?

  5. ariel_ro

    June 28, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Video referee would be a great adition. Yesterday, two refs did outrageous mistakes by not validating a goal for England and validating an off-side goal for Argentina.
    Bottom-line is that football should learn from tennis, which did the leap of letting technology into sport. And all for the best as far as everyone sees.

  6. Rami

    June 28, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Jaydayb, you are 100% right, i was just about to write the same thing. u only need 1 ref up top looking at a big screen tv with the ability to look at the play from different angles. It takes 5 seconds to see if the refs down at the field got the call right or wrong. It doesn’t have to be for everything. Disregarding fouls unless one caused a penalty. An offsides that caused a goal. An offensive player using his hand to score and refs missing it. And if a ball goes in and comes back out and refs dont count the goal. the game does not have to stop every minute to review everything that’s not important, just goals… having 1 ref up top to back u up on an important decision is not so bad, and it only takes 5 seconds for him to see what the call should be. it should be like this in every sport, american football as well, how they do it now is completely wrong and time wasting.

  7. jaydayb

    June 27, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    they should change the system of refereeing, e.g., the same people who show us by video as the game is going on, that referee made a mistake, there should be e.g, 5 referees around those people and when they are sure a mistake has been made by the referee on the field, by alarm and etc stop the game and via communications tell the referee what the right decision is, but if referee was right, then game as usual will keep going on..only intervene when he makes a mistake and that is not so often

  8. Sebastian

    June 27, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Allowing human error is an idiocy. Video replay does not comprimise the integrity of the game at all, in fact it makes it much more so. Today England scored an obvious goal against Germany and it was not counted, earlier the US got a ton of bad calls. If FIFA prez just woke up and stop being so dumb, a more accurate soccer game could be made. I think it could use systems like that of tennis with limited amount of challenges only lost if the challenger was wrong, you could get all the refs to review the video and vote, or even just the main one, still leaving the human element. FIFA makes me angry

  9. Dan

    June 24, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Each team should get 2 challenges per game. if they lose a challenge, they don’t get anymore challenges for the rest of the game (if they lose the 1st challenge). If they get the first challenge, they can challenge 1 more time. It can only be used in a scoring situation where the ball ends up in the net but is disallowed due to potentially bad call or allowed due to potentially bad noncall. The reason behind losing challenges, only allowing 2 challenges, and only in a scoring situation is to keep the flow of the game as close to what it is currently. Stopping play constantly for challenges takes away from that flow (especially if one team has gained an upper hand in the match and are putting on good pressure).

    I haven’t decided if certain components of the game are not reviewable or cannot overturn the call (for example a person who is fouled but was 20 yards away from the play and had no bearing on the actual events of the goal).

    Also, the reviews should come from a “war room” similiar to the NHL where you have “neutral” judges making the decision and calling the decision down to the field.

  10. NPSF3000

    June 22, 2010 at 12:49 am

    FIFA needs to take responsibility for what is happening on the field, and stop blaming human fallibility for making stupid mistakes. Just watching the world cup, the amount of stupid red cards given, and yellows given where there should be a red is ridiculous. There is no consistency in the rulings.

    While I am more interested in a after match review, I don’t think one should rule out Video-ref entirely. While I have heard that US football uses it badly – both International Cricket and Australian Rugby league use it efficiently and effectively.

    Currently players feel that they have to exaggerate to get refs attention, and the amount of faking makes it for poor viewing. Today a saw a Swiss player simply hit the deck to get another guy in trouble for nothing!

    For serious offenses, like in-the-box fouls, and yellow and red cards a video ref would not only help prevent diving – it would help stop those being punished unfairly due to reffering error.

  11. JustMe

    June 21, 2010 at 12:02 am

    FIFA fails to comprehend that with the Internet, the AWFUL performance of Koman Coulibaly, the french referee at todays game between Brazil and Ivory Coast among other, will be scrutinized and their AWFUL performance exposed. Many will justly mock the World Championship as a fake performance similar to US Wrestling matches. And this will discredit the sport and FIFA itself. They need to do something now or risk becoming irrelevant in the long run.

  12. soso

    June 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Football neeeds a video ref

  13. Driessen

    June 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Did you see Brazil V Cote’D’Ivoire world cup 2010? So much stoppage already due to players milking free-kicks which ended with Kaka being undeservedly sent off with a one-match suspension.

    How about Kewell sent off for intentional red card with penalty goal that leveled match?

    Are you trying to tell me that NFL would be a fast game without video referee? That is absurd.

    Football neeeds a video ref. badly. There is so many players milking fouls because they no how vulnerable refs are to poor decisions. Video ref. would eliminate this problem overnight and the game would become much more honest.

    Write another review Ethan and address these arguments. Unfortunately, it is not a case of Mr Blatter making a rare good decision but yourself making a rare bad one.

  14. Jess

    June 19, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Bring in the video referee. Why can’t there be video confirmation of red/yellow cards, off sides etc. Why can’t they have something similar to tennis where each team can contest something major like a red card x amount of times in a game? So the game may take a few more minutes to finish, so what? Are you infavour of a quickie game or a fair one? I believe anything that will stop the “acting drama kings throwing themselves on the ground hoping for a penalty kick” stop their crap has got to be a good thing. I am currently watching the Ghana – Australia game and a video referee would have defintely been a good thing, because kewell was given a tough red car and Ghana got a yellow for a CLEAR red card offence. Seriously guys, fight for a fair game not a quick one.

  15. Thomas

    June 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    My two cents:

    Keep video replay out of football. I don’t like it in American Football either. Just see the “tuck rule” and you will see what I mean.

    If video replay was the answer, then we wouldn’t have pundits arguing penalty awards on Monday mornings. There’s still loads of judgement calls.

  16. anton

    June 24, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    i think review should be limited to game deciding decisions like red cards and penalty calls. but the extra ref should solve the penalty calls at least.

  17. coachie ballgames

    June 24, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    While mindful of the time-wasting ramifications, I am all for video-review. I would favor a real-time system where there is an extra ref in a booth somewhere monitoring the game who can speak with the ref on the field via a headset to reverse a call or provide information, as I discussed here:

    But a move as drastic as video replay may not be needed if the addition of a ref behind each goal works.

    Either way, change should be afoot as the game only gets faster.

  18. FredZ

    June 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Replays actually account for a very little slice of the average nfl game and a live review by the fourth official would take even less time. In a regulation NFL game without overtime replays can at most take up 12 minutes but I’ve never seen that happen since it would be the maximum use of replays by the coaches and require that the call on the field be reversed which gives the coach that third 2 minute replay. Add in the few reviews that occur in during the final two minutes of each half and on average you lose around 10 minutes of a 4 hour game to replays. In soccer (sorry but want to avoid the football confusion), it would take much less time, probably no more than 5 minutes at most which is about as long as you can lose for a bad injury, a keeper injury, or a big ruckus after a red card/penalty.

    It makes no sense for people at home to know within seconds that a major error has been made but the ref and players kept in the dark simply because Fifa and UEFA are antiprogress. I would make a 30 second video review mandatory for all red card and penalty decisions. Those two situations usually take minutes of stopped time anyway and have such a large effect on the outcome of the match that errors should be minimized. I’d also give the ref the power to call for a 30 second review on questions of whether the ball crossed the line.

  19. Phil McThomas

    June 24, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I highly doubt that the Brazil call was based on video evidence, because it all happened too quickly. From the web video I saw, by the time the replay had been shown once on tv, the ref had already changed the call. How could the play have been reviewed and called-in to the ref so quickly?

    The simplest explanations are often the most likely. Webb says the linesman saw incident more clearly and corrected the ref. I can buy that.

    I’m very optimistic that putting a ref behind each goal is going to provide more incidents like this – more like the team-based calls that the NFL refs make on a routine basis, with great accuracy.

  20. Tom Cope

    June 24, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I’d be cautious about using video replay. I like American football well enough, but one of the reasons it is almost unwatchable is how slow the game moves, and video replay is one of the reasons. Players barely celebrate a touchdown or big play, instead they all pause for video review. Exciting plays are debated endlessly, the game stops for a long time, and then finally gets going again. The excitement in the stadium is killed. We should remember it is just sports, except the good and bad calls, and move on.

  21. RaiderRich

    June 24, 2009 at 9:58 am

    There is already instant replay, the question is whether or not the sport will implement it. Soccer won’t do it.

    First you need to solve the problem of synching the stadium clock to the ref’s watch so that when he stops it, so does the time on the scoreboard. That would make replay easier and eliminate arbitrary determinations of injury time you would have to have to compensate.

    Since that’s not going to happen, don’t expect replay to happen.

  22. Carl

    June 24, 2009 at 9:23 am

    You’re spot on with post-match review. There are a number of particularly nefarious elements about the game that this could correct.

    As for the live review, it should be kept out. The best thing it could be used for is the determination of whether or not the ball crossed the line for a goal, and I believe FIFA is already working on something along those lines involving hockey-style behind the net officials.

  23. Pedro

    June 24, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Video ref needs to be introduced for 2 things. Decisions in the penalty box and to confirm a ball crosses the goal line. But there needs to be one caveat.

    The referee should be the only one who can call upon the video ref. It should be considered a tool in his arsenal to use. ie. he’s not 100 percent sure he can make the right decision. He doesn’t have to use it. It’s up to him.

    Violent conduct and cheating should be dealt with on video panels with heavy punishments. So you take a dive to win a penalty the player gets an instant red card, 3 game ban AND the team is docked 3 points. You’ll soon cut that behaviour out. I’m talking to you Drogba, Gerrard et al.

  24. ferocho

    June 24, 2009 at 9:11 am

    On a game that moves millions, leaving an open door to human-error is a recipe for disaster.
    People criticize the use of video but I have never seen it implemented, have you? How can we decide whether it’s obtrusive or not if we don’t even have a basis for analysis? They could have tested a system on a this Confa Cup, which nobody really cares about. See how it works. I am all for bringing technology to promote fairness, let’s give it a try and then decide. And while we are at it, how about some electronic way to identify offsides?

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