In a May 2016 post entitled “Technology in soccer”, I wrote that “Now that (video recording and replay) technology is available (through smartphones) to everyone in the heat of the moment, the power is shifting from FIFA to the fans. I think that the fans will eventually vote to preserve the true spirit of soccer (by using video recording and replay technology to help referees make the right in-game decisions)”.
Fast forward about a year and video recording and replay technology is indeed being used to help referees make the correct in-game decisions. Specifically, in yesterday’s 3rd place Confederations Cup game between Portugal and Mexico, the referee paused the game to use video assistant referee technology to correctly award Portugal a penalty.
While using the video assistant referee causes a momentary delay in the game, it’s well worth the resulting benefit of promoting fairness in the sport. Well done FIFA.
Yesterday night, Turkey beat the Czech Republic 2-0 in the Euro 2016 competition. Turkey needed to win by at least a two goal margin in order to have a chance of progressing from the group stage so both goals were crucial. And this time it was Turkey’s second goal that came from an offside position and should have there been disallowed. You can watch the goal below.
Turkey was unfairly penalized during the England game, and unfairly rewarded against the Czech Republic. As part of the Euro 2016 competition, the Czech Republic game is more important than the friendly against England. So in this case Turkey ended up gaining more than it lost.
But the problem isn’t whether you’re on the winning or losing side of referee mistakes. The problem is that there doesn’t need to be a winning or losing side at all. Using technology, both mistakes could have been corrected and soccer could be a fairer game.
Something interesting happened during the friendly soccer game between England and Turkey earlier this week. England scored in the 2nd minute of the game to go up 1-0. However, the goal should have been disallowed by the referee as the scorer was in an offside position at the moment when his teammate passed him the ball. If you’re not familiar with the rules of soccer, this basically means that there was only one opposing team player (in this case the goalkeeper) between the player receiving the pass and the goal at the time when the pass was made. This places the player in an offside position and this is against the rules in soccer.
Video recording and replay technology didn’t exist in the past. It therefore wasn’t possible to identify such infractions immediately after they took place.
However, even after the advent of video recording and replay technology, the world governing body of soccer, FIFA, decided not to use it to correct referee mistakes. Although using it would allow referees to immediately identify the mistakes they made and correct them, FIFA argued that this was against the spirit of soccer. This basically means that FIFA chose to continue letting referees make mistakes rather than promote fairness in the game. The latter is what’s actually against the spirit of soccer, not the former.
But now, in addition to video recording and replay technology, we have smartphones that let you immediately broadcast and watch these videos on platforms like YouTube. As a result, everyone can see whether a referee’s decision was correct or not within minutes of the decision. In the absence of YouTube, you had to wait for the TV channel to show the replay as it saw fit.
Turkey’s soccer coach Fatih Terim took advantage of a smartphone to show the game’s referee a video recording of the offside incident minutes after the goal. You can watch the series of events in the video below.
By not adopting video recording and replay technology to improve the decisions of its officials when the technology first emerged, FIFA used its centralized power to preserve the status quo and delay progress. Now that this technology is available to everyone in the heat of the moment, the power is shifting from FIFA to the fans. I think that the fans will eventually vote to preserve the true spirit of soccer.