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A case against instant replay in soccer

FIFA President Sepp Blatter is considering adding instant replay technology to international soccer, but it is unlikely to be ready in time for the World Cup this year.

When the NFL put replay into use, I was one of the few fans who was against it. I’ll go into my reasons why after the break.

  1. You can’t challenge everything. It seems so arbitrary what the NFL allows a coach to challenge and what they consider to be irreversible. Why should a coach be able to challenge the exact location of the ball down to the inch, when they cannot challenge a pass interference penalty that could be worth 50 yards.
  2. It slows the game down. The NFC Championship game last night offered the best possible example of how replay can totally interrupt the flow of a game. The Saints’ winning drive in overtime had three booth reviews, and none of them resulted in a call being overturned. That drive should have been an exhilarating conclusion to a fantastic game. But instead, it just dragged.
  3. It still doesn’t guarantee accuracy. With or without replay, it will never be possible for officiating to be 100% accurate. Countless times a referee has incorrectly reversed a call even after reviewing the tape.

Its entirely likely that these complaints will be even stronger from the soccer community. Can you imagine Cuahtemoc Blanco writhing on the ground in feigned anguish and yelling for his coach to throw a challenge flag after an opposing player tapped him on the shoulder?

Instant replay slowing down a football game or hockey game isn’t completely devastating because those sports have natural stoppages anyway. But soccer? Would the clock actually stop during a replay? That just seems so… unnatural!

Maybe I’m overreacting. In fact, it sounds like replay in soccer will be more like replay in baseball than any other sport. Replay is only used in baseball to review home run calls. And if ever approved, it will probably only be used in soccer to review goals.

It’s nice to see that FIFA is considering making changes to address a legitimate issue. But there is still a whole lot that needs to be worked out before I can get on board with this.