INSTANT REPLAYS PLEASE! Does Umbro have a case?
No, I'm not English or Mexican or for that matter Irish (hand goal). I'm Canadian, born in Toronto. Yes I support all our losing teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors, and TFC. Don't hold that against me. And yes, I support Canadian soccer and long for the day when we are close enough to a World Cup berth that can be decided by a referee's decision.
But should we get so close, I would hate to be denied a chance to advance due to a goal that should not have been a goal or vice versa. Today, at the World Cup, we saw two goals in two games at the round of 16 that were called incorrectly. In the case of England against Germany, England scored a good goal that was not given because the referee's on the field did not think that the ball crossed the line. In the Mexico – Argentina game, Argentina was given a goal that was clearly offside. Both goals were hard to determine during the regular run of play, but seconds later, once the replay's were shown, it was clear that England had a goal and Argentina did not.
The replays today come back to us so fast, that it's beyond me as to why FIFA will refuse to allow instant replays. They claim that the time that it takes to watch replays would disrupt the game. This excuse is preposterous. As an example of how quick the video editors and technicians are in the control booth, I saw three replays in the game between the USA and Ghana of a play that resulted in a corner kick before the player taking the ensuing corner was ready to take it. Not one, but three replays from three different camera angles. And to boot, the US player was hurrying to take the kick! The technology is so good and fast that decisions could be made very quickly without disrupting the game at all. Jason DeVos, CBC analyst stated in the game between Mexico and Argentina that the argument with the players and linesmen disrupted the play longer than replays would have.
FIFA is one of the few sports organizations that publicly mention that "Fair Play" is an important part of the game, yet making things fair on matters of goals is not part of this agenda. How can that be? It's not fair to win a game by a goal that should not have been. I'm not suggesting that instant replays be used for fouls, corner kicks, etc, but at least for goals. And the beauty of the whole thing is that the final decision can still be made by the referee on the field. Technology allows that. With I-phones and Blackberry's, the referee can actually have his super thin I-phone fit in his referee's wallet. He can pull it out in controversial plays and watch it for himself and make a decision before an ensuing kick-off or goal kick. And no, I don't own shares in Blackberry or Apple.
But what I do want to speak from is a coaching perspective. Now I can't speak for all coaches but I would imagine that most coaches want to win fairly. They don't want to win when they should not and conversely, do not want to lose when they should not. Coaches work hard to prepare their teams and to be denied a goal or have a goal given against them when it should not have is very disturbing. And this is because soccer is a very low scoring game. 19% of games end with a 1-0 score. 10% of games end in a 0-0 draw (FIFA 2004 Magazine). A single goal makes a huge difference. Even games with 3 goals in them are more likely to be one goal games (i.e. 2-1 and not 3-0). Coaches often set the strategies, tactics, formations, and game plans for their teams according to the score. In other sports, there are often many opportunities to make up for a goal or point that was given or denied in error. Scoring is not so rare in other sports such as basketball, football, baseball and hockey. But in soccer, one goal is huge.
In the England - Germany game today, had England's goal been given, they may have come out of the half-time break with a completely different game plan and who knows what the result would have been. Different players may have been involved in substitutions and the game may have taken a completely different turn. In the Mexico - Argentina game, you could visibly see that the goal given to Argentina affected the Mexican players and they consequently gave up another bad goal minutes later to seal their loss. Mexico actually had the better scoring chances up until then. Sure you can argue that a strong team fights adversity, but when the game is so low scoring to begin with, the bad decisions will affect the tactical and strategic battles that are planned and practiced for hours and hours at training. For example going a goal down in a hockey game early in the game will not often result in a complete change of strategic and tactical plans but in soccer they may.
For me, from a coaching perspective, I would like to see video replay on goals instituted especially at the highest levels where the technology is available. I would also like to see video replay's used as a method of fining or suspending a player after a game for diving. I do not want to see every tackle or penalty shot analyzed on the field but a review later on to make sure that the spirit of fair play is adhered to would be nice.
The World Cup only comes every 4 years and in today's world, where audiences are huge and the money around the game is just astronomical, you would think that common sense would eventually come over FIFA in this one simple request. The request for instant replays is shared by most fans, players, coaches, and probably referees as well. I don't think the referees under scrutiny in today's two games will sleep very well tonight. I'm sure they wouldn't have minded the benefit of the replays.
Companies spend millions of dollars for advertising rights, naming rights, branding rights all based on the World Cup. For example, Umbro who sponsors the English kit (Umbro's only team at the World Cup) will lose millions of dollars as a result of this loss due to lost shirt sales. Maybe someone needs to attempt to hit FIFA's pocket book. Can Umbro sue FIFA over this? Does Umbro, have a case?
Will that argument help? Am I stretching it a bit? Simply put, can we get instant replays, please!
Thanks for reading,
Executive Director, National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada, www.nscac.ca