Television replays and the use of high-tech camera technology have become part of many sports. This was inevitable. Sport is now a multibillion-dollar enterprise which determines the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.
The need for the correct decisions to be made is, therefore, taking on greater and greater importance. Bad calls by sport officials not only shape the outcome of a game, not only can determine the outcome of a career, but, quite literally, can affect a person's lifesytyle.
Most sports have realised that getting the proper call is paramount, and have long embraced technology to help the officials. One sport that has been reluctant to fall in line is football. Supposedly the world's most popular sport, football has been extremely reluctant to use television replays to help officials. Coaches and managers being critical of referees' decisions in post-match interviews has become virtually standard, especially for the team that loses.
One wonders if FIFA has decided not to use technology in football precisely because it feels that inevitable criticism of referees only helps to add to the drama of the game and, therefore, adds to the sport's overall appeal. No one can convince me that FIFA is serious about doing everything possible to help get the correct decisions made in football. FIFA appears to be operating on the maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Something as basic as goal-line technology, where a device is set up to determine whether a goal should be registered, seems simple enough, but stubbornly, FIFA has up to now refused to make that a standard part of the game.
A lot of football pundits argue that football is too dynamic and free-flowing for television cameras to be used during the natural run of play. That, I can understand. Most sports are really a series of events with natural built-in pauses in-between, while football, theoretically, can be a near-unending series of movements for up to 45 minutes at a time.
Turning to TV cameras to determine infringements in football can, therefore, be quite tedious and cumbersome because of the regularity which the camera crew could be called upon. No one wants a game of football to be stopped and the TV crew consulted to rule on a decision every minute or two. Do that and a 90-minute game could take three times as long.
I also don't mind the human element of the referee in the middle. No one wants to see a football game being adjudicated by a little man in a room with a bunch of gadgets around him. We might as well be watching 'Star Wars'! But where is the middle ground? How do we strive for the correct decisions to be made in football and not make teams feel hard done by, without disrupting the natural flow of the game?
It isn't easy but I have a suggestion. I would have a rule that allows a team to challenge the referees' decision, not indiscriminately, but maybe, say, twice per half. If a team feels it was given an unfair call, it would have the right to review the call via television wherever possible. So where a player gets booked or sent off unfairly, he can challenge that. He can ask for TV replays to verify things like a penalty given or conceded, or whether a goal kick or a corner should be awarded.
The replay could also check for things such as goals from an offside position, or a handball that results in a goal or a penalty situation, etc. Like in cricket, if a team gets the reviews wrong, the team would lose access to them, and if they get them right, they would keep the privilege. Since there only two per half, it is in the team's best interest not to challenge 'any and any' call, and this would mean that the game is unlikely to be disrupted for the 50-50 decisions.
If this is brought into football, the standard of refereeing would improve because refs would not want to be embarrassed by an overturned call, and players will feel they have some say in crucial decisions that could cost them the game. The game and the players involved would definitely benefit. FIFA needs to institute something similar to this now.
Orville Higgins is a sportscaster at KLAS. Email feedback to email@example.com.