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What I think about .. Soccer Referees and Technology

For those hidden in a cave .. yesterday (26-June) there were two soccer World Cup elimination matches, and both were marred by clear officiating mistakes. In the England/Germany game, a England shot that would have tied the game was not given because the officials didn’t see it cross the line, and it wasn’t close. In the Argentina/Mexico game the first Argentine goal should have been disallowed because of clear offside. ┬áIt also wasn’t close.

I don’t want sensors in the ball or computers making decisions.

Anyone who thinks technology are infallible is wrong. If a computer is making the decision, then the judgment is taken from the on-premise officials to the programmers who write the software! The physics (and the associated mathematics) of identifying the exact location of a compressible spherical object rotating on all three axes, particularly when the sensors on the ball produce only a polygon approximation of a sphere. Frankly, programmers make mistakes, and are hardly immune to corrupting influences.

I think soccer should use a system similar to the NHL review system, which, while not perfect, is working well. An additional assistant referee should be in the press box (or elsewhere on premises), with access to the video and the ability to rewind and see slow motion. That official has better information, and can give that information to the referee. FIFA can specify what can be reviewed (perhaps goals, offside and violence) or can simply have the officials communicate and get it right as they can. Nine times out of 10, the field official will know to ask for help immediately. And soccer already has the culture of a referee getting advised by assistants.

One more thing .. FIFA agrees with me about not wanting computers making decisions. And they are opposed to the “replay official” concept because of the scarcity of excellent officials. What they don’t realize is that by making the officials job easier, and removing the risk of catastrophic (for the referee) error, they will greatly expand the pool of officials able to take on big matches.

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