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Saturday, June 25, 2022


THE PEOPLE’S GAME: Soccer officiating could use some improvement

The phrase ‘no one is perfect’ is starting to wear out its welcome, especially in the world of sports.’ It seems like every weekend brings another bone-headed call by an official that has fans, players and coaches all pulling out their hair.’

While most people might admit there is a problem, particularly when their team is involved, there is not a solution that will appease everyone.

Since the NBA and MLB have each joined the NFL and NHL in adopting a limited use of video replay, it seems the only sport yet to join the club is soccer.’ But since soccer is known for its timeliness and pace, people are still skeptical of stopping matches.’

Anyone who has ever played competitive soccer knows that when the clock starts winding down, the team with the lead will slow the action.’ Whether through excessive substitutions or faking an injury in a game’s final minutes, these stall tactics leave little time for the trailing squad to make up the difference.’

Since replay has never been used in soccer, no one really knows what to expect.’ Will it take on the rules of football, where coaches’ challenges come with the risk of losing a timeout? Or will it be up to the referee to decide when a call is too close to be certain?’

Referees are routinely suspected of choosing sides, so few will agree that giving them more power is a step in the right direction.’ Others might say this is the only way to keep things fair.’ Either way, most would agree that the level of play is surpassing the officials’ ability to make tough decisions.

The Football Association has yet to decide on whether or not to allow replay to be used during matches, but replays are being used afterwards to hand down fines and match suspensions.

When Emmanuel Adebayor stomped on Robin van Persie’s face and excessively celebrated after scoring against his old team, officials banned him for three matches due to unsportsmanlike conduct.

The situation becomes more frustrating when a call, or lack of one, decides a game.

When Eduardo da Silva took a dive that led to a penalty kick in a Champions League game against Celtic F.C., the FA banned him for two games, but then reversed the decision. This system punishes the players at fault but does not help the team on the other side of the outcome.’ In that case, an in-game replay would have shown that the Celtic keeper was not involved in tripping Eduardo and the result could have been different.

In 2007, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said at a press conference that stopping play to review footage is unacceptable, but that he approved of using technology by adding a camera on the goal line, or putting sensors in the ball to see if it actually crossed the line. ‘

Most soccer fans can accept the reality that mistakes will be made. Still, there needs to be some compromise allowing the use of replays without upsetting the natural flow of the game. ‘

If baseball, the ultimate tradition-based sport, can accept the need for adapting to the times, then soccer should follow suit. Until that day, fans can expect to have something to complain about, since the referees are unfortunately human and will make mistakes.

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