blind-referee.jpgThis summer so far has been a summer filled with hot weather, oil spills, exciting sporting events (game 7 of the NBA was great, World Cup) and plenty of umpire/referee missed calls. Nothing has been more controversial in sports than a blown call, and this summer has been the epicenters.  On Wednesday we were reminded that unlike the NFL, NBA, or NHL, the Federation of International Footballing Associations (FIFA) do not employ instant replay.

The United States who desperately needed a win against Algeria to advance to the knock-out stage, had one potential go-ahead goal taken away by the lineman calling U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey offside.  After viewing the countless replays one could obviously tell that Mr. Dempsey was clearly, onside and the lineman call simply bad.

Remember how the French team beat Ireland with a French player’s hand touching the ball (should have been a call) and then scoring? It was an international incident that cause both the President of France and Ireland to have a talk. Later, the player said he had the help of the ‘Hand of God’ in making the goal. Where was the officiating there?

This only made many American fans (myself included) remember the goal that was disallowed by another referee who called a phantom call against the United States versus Slovenia only 5 days earlier. There were the obvious calls for the referee’s head and which was accompanied by the referee’s wiki page being defaced. Then there was the calls for instant replay, which much like Major League Baseball, FIFA declined the idea.

These incidents with referees only reminded the casual and serious baseball fan about the Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game, where first base umpire, Jim Joyce called the last batter of the game safe, when replay showed the batter to be clearly out. To Mr. Joyce’s credit he did apologize after the game (and after seeing the replay in the clubhouse), to Mr. Galarraga, and the next day teared up as he gave him the line-up cards. But the issue of instant replay has been revved up to an almost fever pitch, what’s so bad about instant replay?  Why is technology getting such a bad rap?

FIFA and MLB seem content to not add further officials and deny implementing instant replay is very disappointing. They argue that IR slows down the play, challenges the authority of the refereeing staff and takes out an important human dimension of sport. They argue that IR would require the ref also review alleged offenses that they didn’t call. Who’s going to bring these to the attention of the ref? Will we end up with the ridiculous flag dances of the NFL coaches?

With the technology at hand, and with in some cases, millions of dollars on the line, how can we simply deny excellence when the umpire’s, and referee’s simply can’t do it?

UEFA (Union of European Footballing Associations), has adopted a new technique of adding goal judges for their new Europa League (formally the UEFA Cup). Of course it’s not instant replay but it is itching towards it. The more officiating eyes on a game the lower the risk that it will not be destroyed by poor officiating.

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