FIFA vows referee system overhaul – International Football
JOHANNESBURG – From disallowed goals due to phantom penalties (Slovenia-USA) to clear offsides being missed (Argentina-Mexico) to a ball clearing the goal line and not being ruled a score (Germany-England), one of the enduring memories of this World Cup will be refereeing blunders.
The mistakes have been so humiliating, the cries from players, coaches and fans so loud and the global replays so persistent, that even stodgy old FIFA has admitted that sweeping changes to how the game is officiated are coming.
“I would say that it is the final World Cup with the current refereeing system,” FIFA general secretaryJerome Valcke told the BBC in the strongest comments yet from the high-ranking official.
Too bad it’s coming too late to change this tournament.
In March, FIFA rejected a number of simple reform measures including instant replay, goal-line technology and extra referees to help determine goals.
The positive news is that Valcke said that, while those issues will be revisited after Sunday’s World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain, he is seeking even greater measures. He is essentially calling for a complete reexamination of how the game is refereed, a long overdue idea. FIFA is expected to meet in October to discuss the issue.
“The teams and the players are so strong and so fast. The game is different and the referees are older than all the players,” Valcke said.
“The game is so fast, the ball is flying so quickly, we have to help them [the referees] and we have to do something and that’s why I say it is the last World Cup under the current system.”
FIFA is a stick-in-the-mud organization in part because the popularity of its main event seemingly can’t be slowed. Despite all the frustrations, controversies and hard feelings – Valcke called England’s goal that wasn’t against Germany a “bad day” – it’s estimated that a billion people worldwide will watch the final.
The organization isn’t one to care about outside opinion. In this World Cup alone, it stood up to the governments of France and Nigeria because it felt they were interfering in the operation of the nations’ soccer federations. It knows it has all the power and while that can be good, it also has created a paternalistic arrogance that got the sport into this problem.
Part of FIFA’s old school approach is welcome.
The game is played with little outside flair, marketing and “game experience” enhancements that plagued so many modern sports. As annoying as blaring vuvuzelas were to some, at least it wasn’t stadium rock music, the organized handing out of Thundersticks or broadcast tools out of the Fox playbook.
With FIFA, they basically play both national anthems, roll out the ball and go. It allows for the purity and simplicity of the game to remain front and center.
Getting the calls right, though, is imperative.
Valcke said that the easy stuff – the goal-line mistakes – must be solved. He also wanted a different way to review referee performances, add extra sets of eyes and perhaps empower assistant referees.
Essentially anything and everything is on the table.
So from the ruins of the bitter disappointments suffered in South Africa perhaps, just perhaps, modernization for soccer is coming. It took repeated disasters to wake FIFA up. But they’re up, at last.