FIFA football

Replay and Carry On

12:00 PMGoalChatter

Though unlikely to be introduced soon, video replay remains promising in the world of football

If a foul occurs in the box but no one is there to see it, is it a penalty? Unlike the question of the tree that falls in the deserted forest, there are immediate witnesses to a foul: the players and the fans. Yet neither have the power to influence the referee's decision to administer a penalty. Supposing the official himself was a witness, and millions of television viewers saw him standing in front of the spectacle and failing to blow his whistle. Consider a scenario where there are six officials present, all of them equipped with headsets that make communication with the head referee possible. The episode with the foul is apparently seen by all but the officials, who refuse to acknowledge it. What should be done?

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has tried (and failed) to make a valid point for choosing not to invest in video replay since the 1990s. Skeptics such as Blatter and certain groups of fans have constructed misconceptions on video replay. They erroneously fear that drastic, technological additions to the sport would take away from "the human element" of the game. Although Blatter reopened the issue on goal-line technology being used for the World Cup after the infamous "goal that wasn't" that would have tied England's game against Germany in 2010,  video replay outside of just goals is unlikely to be considered anytime soon.

There's more at stake here than loss of the human element. Goal-line technology itself is already proving to be a costly endeavor. Although FIFA has approved a list of goal-line systems, including Hawk-Eye, installing and testing the system would be a financial burden on many leagues. The English Premier League is an exception, having already made use of Hawk-Eye, equipping all 20 stadiums with the system. Few leagues have clubs whose owners can spend around £250,000 (over $404,000) at will. However, there is quite a lot of money involved in the sport already. There are multiple clubs in Europe that are certainly not short on dough and have big-name sponsors. The Russian Premier League's Zenit is owned by oil giants Gazprom, and various other clubs, such as PAOK, are owned by wealthy oligarchs. If clubs can pay insurmountable amounts for overrated players who don't live up to the hype, it seems senseless not to invest in goal-line technology. Selling the system will only earn FIFA more money, and if more leagues buy the product, economies of scale will mean its price will drop, while its accessibility soars.

Since one action inevitably leads to another, it wouldn't be long before video replay would follow suit. An extra official checking a monitor still retains the human element, and in today's world, this can be done as fast as clicking a "like" button. Besides, the EPL's Hawk-Eye system is completely automatic, and there doesn't seem to be a backlash at its use and lack of human involvement.

When one asks whether or not precious time will be taken away from the game to investigate replays, there are two questions that must be considered. Do fans of sports that have instant replay ever voice their discontent with the system? If so, they must be convening outside the realm of social media in a retro forum - a la ancient Rome - to discuss their qualms. Second, how long does it take viewers watching at home to access video highlights? The increasing availability of nearly-instant snippets of significant match events can't be overlooked. It's certainly a strange image when today's fans are the ones with more technology at their fingertips than the decision-makers on the pitch.

FIFA is so concerned with banning fans from stadiums and accepting mindless World Cup bids that no time is left for making critical decisions that will benefit the game in the long run.

In the so-called age of rationalism, isn't it rational to expect objectivity? Why leave everything up to chance when there's an option not to? No matter how many referees are added, the element of human error will forever be present, but no matter how much technology is added, the element of human reason will be just as alive.

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