In North America, we are used to having the advantage of instant replay to critique refereeing decisions at nearly every single instance controversy arises. Nothing ruins a big run on the football field for a touchdown like stepping out of bounds 5 yards in to the play only to be discovered by the replay official. The NBA has added in a kicker to contact sports with the reviewing of fouls to determine just what type of infraction was committed. The only major sport still holding strong against the replay review is soccer.
While goal line technology is being integrated into the game, there are instances nearly every game where a replay could be a huge difference maker in the validity of not only the calls but the result of the match itself. While goal line technology notifies officials if the ball completely crosses the line and is a goal, there is nothing in place to review foul calls, possession changes, or boundary crossings anywhere else on the field. The particularly concerning issue with soccer is that it is the only major sport where a team can be forced to play a man (or more) down due to ejections.
We have all seen instances where a player embellishes a foul or isn’t even touched at all, and the player accused of fouling him/her is given a red card and their marching orders. Similarly, we have also seen cases where a ball clearly hits off of one teams player but due to the positioning of the referee(s) they award possession to the incorrect team as they cannot see the play adequately. At minimum, the review of goal kick and corner kick awards should be considered; as they are “dead ball” type situations where there is adequate time to review the play to insure the correct call was made.
Most leagues have instituted a review of discipline from the referees as well as players’ performances post game, but this does not change the result of the game as the damage has already been done. Players have been fined and banned after the fact but due to no instantaneous penalization taking place they still influence the outcome of the game at hand. With the abundance of camera angles provided by the various broadcasting agencies covering the games, there is adequate footage to review the calls nearly instantly and correct a call if necessary.
Whenever a card is issued or a corner kick/goal kick is awarded, there is usually a lapse of 10-20 seconds where a player is arguing with the referee or setting up the ball to resume play, this is sufficient to check to make sure the call is correct without really slowing the game down which is the real concern of most detractors.
As replay reviews expand in other sports, its inclusion into soccer will continue to be a hot topic. The issuance of a bad red card or a bad penalty leaves supporters with a bad taste in their mouths that could be corrected with a replay official watching a quick clip of the last run of play.
There is no reason we cannot use the technology to double check our referees and players, we owe it to not only them but the fans to keep the world’s game at the forefront of gaming advancements and have the most accurate outcomes we can strive for.