Soccer

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Instant Replay? FIFA Just Might Be Saying Yes

27 Jan, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
As One of the Few Sports Without it, International-Level Soccer Has Long Put the Onus on Officials to Make Final Calls

The watershed moment has arrived. Soccer at the international level is going to test-drive the concept of instant replay.

Yeah, yeah. We know, we know. It’s been around the NFL (as well as other sports) for years. Soccer, however, at the FIFA level, has stubbornly resisted technology based on the following points:

  • The referees are the highest authorities on the field, and instant replay calls their authority into question.

  • Not every place in the global game of soccer (or “football,” as it’s known around the world) has access to the technology necessary to implement instant replay.

  • It’s by nature a fast-paced game with few natural breaks in the action. Instant replay would unnecessarily slow the pace.

Don’t think it hasn’t been brought up before, though; it has. In 2008, FiFA President Sepp Blatter said:

"Let it be as it is and let's leave [soccer] with errors. The television companies will have the right to say [the referee] was right or wrong, but still the referee makes the decision – a man, not a machine."

Blatter and others at FIFA have repeatedly argued against using instant replay. But at FIFA's Congress in São Paulo prior to the 2014 World Cup, Blatter proposed allowing managers two challenges per game, much like the NFL handles challenges today.

But all things change, including FIFA’s ability to have the last word. And to say the least, it’s a new day. Instant replay could go into use, at least in a test phrase, if it is approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) during their Annual Business Meeting in London, according to Inside The Games.

The IFAB stated that protocols will now be finalized before their 130th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Cardiff, Wales, which is scheduled to take place from March 4-6.

With instant replay, referees’ decisions could be overturned regarding goals, fouls, penalty kicks and more.

Development of procedures which could be used for instant replay has been aided by feedback from the Football Advisory Panel and Technical Advisory Panel, which was established in 2014 to provide the IFAB with greater expertise before decisions are taken as they shape the Laws of the Game.

Last year the IFAB, which consists of representatives from FIFA and the Football Associations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, opted to delay trials for instant replays at their AGM.

Should the recommendation be approved at this year’s AGM, it could allow for the use of instant replay on a trial basis as soon as a framework and timeline have been established.

The IFAB has noted that a number of soccer associations have expressed an interest in staging trials.

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