Recently the International Football Association Board announced that it would be using video replays in soccer. This development brings soccer up to speed with sports such as baseball, hockey, and football, all of which use instant replay to ensure that calls are made correctly. Additionally, it comes on the back of soccer’s hugely successful innovative foray into goal line technology, where a chip is placed in the ball, and the referee is alerted every time the ball crosses the line.
The International Football Association Board, the body charged with promulgating the laws of soccer, said that it would permit video replays in experimental situations for two years before making a permanent decision.
This experiment will include a video referee who will watch replays. The video assistant will then instruct the main referee when the main referee asks for assistance or when the video assistant has decided that the main referee has missed something on the field. There are thirteen leagues, which have already requested to become part of the experiment.
The International Football Association Board noted that video replays will not be used in all situations, but rather will be reserved for situations that are likely to have an impact on the outcome of the game. These situations are straight red cards, penalty decisions, goals, and mistaken identity. Although, the International Football Association Board did not mention off side calls as one of the situations in which video replay will be used, one can assume that video replay will be applied to off side calls, because decisions on goals are already decided by goal line technology.
Interestingly, soccer will be the only sport that uses video replays to assist referees in judgment calls. All video replays being used in other sports only permit referees to make decisions that are black and white. In ice hockey, for example, video replay can only be used to assess whether or not the puck crossed the goal line. In football, it can only be used to see if a pass hit the ground, if a player has stepped out of bounds, or if the ball has crossed the plain of the goal line. In baseball video replay is reserved for instances of determining whether a ball landed in play or if it landed foul and for homeruns. In soccer however, video replays will be used to assess penalties and red cards incidents, which are areas where referees have typically had a wide range of discretion.
However, it is important to note that although video replay is expected to make it easier for referees to correct their errors, the International Football Association Board did note that it will not make referees correct one hundred percent of the time, and that the use of video replay will only be reserved for instances of clear error. Viewed in that light, it seems that video replay will only be used in extreme situations where judgment cannot be taken into account. Further questions also remain about how much time the video assistant referees will be permitted to watch replays. Soccer, in contrast to football, baseball, and hockey, uses a continuously running clock. Thus, it will be interesting to see how officials iron out that wrinkle.
All in all, it seems that soccer has finally come into the twenty first century by employing video replays. However, it will remain to be seen how and to what extent this video replay is used. If it is done correctly, and if it is done well, then the sport of soccer, and the fans that enjoy it every weekend, should benefit immensely.