Clearly, England was denied a should-have-counted goal yesterday v. Germany in World Cup Soccer action. But that does not mean video review should be part of this or any future World Cup event. Should the positioning of officials be adjusted or altered? Very likely. Should there possibly be an official or two sitting above the pitch, keeping a close eye on events? That would make sense. But video review should never, ever be part of the World Cup of Soccer.
Based on what I’ve seen from South Africa since June 11th, when the World Cup began, there are only two instances in a 90-minute match when video review would even be the slightest bit helpful – to decide if the ball actually crossed the goal line (yesterday, England v. Germany), and to determine if a player in the box was onside/offside (also yesterday, Argentina v. Mexico). Both these determinations can be made by simply having the right people in the right positions. Like basketball, the game of soccer is not played at a fast enough pace to warrant video review.
Hockey and football are two sports where video review makes perfect sense. Both are played at speeds that make it virtually impossible for a group of officials, even if they are in the absolute right position, to make all the correct determinations surrounding the puck or ball. It is probably time, in hockey, to use goal line technology to determine if the puck entered the net, but that’s because it’s so small and can spin in a non-symmetrical manner. A soccer ball is a tad larger – and rounder.
Baseball uses replay, but only in specific situations. They do not use it to determine balls, strikes, safe or out. And that’s the way it should be. As you can see, umpires don’t always get it right, but the human element is, and always has been, a critical part of baseball’s foundation and appeal. And baseball is a perfect example of the saying, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.” They could use replay to determine close plays at first base – and get it absolutely correct every single time – but they don’t. Probably the smartest thing Bud Selig has ever done (and that’s not a very long list).
Soccer has the same traditions going for it as baseball does – except soccer’s foundation is worldwide. Soccer simply needs to figure out how to get these calls right – using human eyes. Where should they station extra officials outside the pitch? What should those officials be specifically looking for? Really, folks, it’s not that hard, because virtually all of these controversial plays happen inside the penalty area. You simply focus these extra officials there. Video review is not required.
What I find strange is that FIFA has not taken steps to solve these potential problems before now. Soccer is such a low-scoring game that each and every officiating decision around the goal is crucial. And this is the game’s world stage. FIFA has had four long years to figure out how to avoid these fiascos at the World Cup – and they’ve blown it again. Let’s hope they get it right in 2014 in Brazil.