Thursday, March 4, 2010

Instant replay should be used in European soccer

Italian Soccer Federation President Giancarlo Abete is making a "renewed appeal to FIFA to authorize trials of video refs in the light of recent high-profile mistakes such as Thierry Henry's handball goal against Ireland."

I completely agree.

Refereeing is a tough job. There are a million things happening on the field at the same time and it's impossible to see them all. Diving, or "simulation," as it's officially known, is by now so common that it is part of the game, and players have gotten extremely clever about getting away with cheap fouls.

This is not necessarily the referee's fault. Sure, there are some refs who are just terrible, but the most part have very good judgement and do their best to make the right call. However, this is not an easy thing to do.

For this, I think it is time that instant replay was brought to European soccer. It has worked amazingly well in the United States' NFL and NHL, as well as international tennis.

Although they would have to develop a unique system, it would likely go along the lines of the current setup in the US. Coaches would get a certain number of opportunities to challenge a given call, at which point the referee would see several replays of the event and be able to re-evaluate his decision. If the challenge turned out to be negatives (that is, the referee chose to uphold his decision), the team would be penalized (although in soccer, this is tricky because timeouts, which are taken away in other sports, are not as common). However, I'm sure they could figure something reasonable out.

Now I don't mean to argue that European soccer should be "Americanized" or changed for the worse; there is definitely a certain character and culture to it, which includes this sort of showmanship and simulation at times. However, this is OK until the course of games and seasons are being changed by cheaters, because Henry's handball, Eduardo's dive, and all others that do this sort of thing regularly, are nothing more than cheaters.

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