Keeping Score

From Paris: More On England Getting Robbed

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Our Paris bureau chief, World Cup Blog contributor, and all-around football guru Bruce Crumley commented on my gut reaction post to the Frank Lampard play. Bruce’s post shouldn’t be buried in the comments section: he offers a clear, in-depth argument as to why instant replay is needed in soccer. Check it out below. Right on, Bruce!

I am so with you here Sean–and indeed have been making this argument for the best part of a decade (my last rant during World Cup play came from Germany four years ago: http://www.time.com/time/europe/2006/wcup/technophobia.htm)

As most readers (and all time.com crew) know, I am probably the most reliable anti-England fan when it comes to football or rugby (an asking-for-it position when you keep in mind the England enthusiast occupying the upper reaches of the Time masthead…[SEAN GREGORY NOTE  … .Bruce is talking about the esteemed Michael Elliott. Michael can’t be thrilled with this]. Yet even I shattered the otherwise calm Paris afternoon with shouts of obscenity at seeing yet another horrific reffing error that video could have prevented–and in fact has helped avoid (or correct) in US football, hockey, rugby, tennis, and even baseball. Why does soccer so steadfastly refuse?

The argument you hear most that “even video can’t prevent all mistakes, because there are times you can’t determine things one way or the other even after repeated viewings of tape”. That’s a truly lame dodge begging the retort: “So, what, you don’t want to correct 75% of the errors now ruining play because there would still be 25% remaining unresolved?” Under that logic, you’d never operate anyone whose life is threatened by disease or injury in deference to the relatively small chance they could die on the table, or suffer a relapse later. The other whine one always hears–it’ll cause too many delays–becomes totally flaccid when you look at the relatively limited stoppages in rugby and ice hockey. Meanwhile–and this is key—check out the displays of fan and player satisfaction in other sports (including tradition-bound baseball) when time is taken to get the call right.

Indeed, the solution—even partial—to reducing the number of matches being mauled by error is so easy and obtainable that there’s only one possible reason FIFA continues to resist using technology to that end: It wants human error. It wants mistakes. It wants to maintain a significant margin for unpredictable screw-ups by the men who officiate matches. What other credible explanation is there for FIFA’s fierce opposition to corrective approaches otherwise?

Now, ask yourself *why* FIFA would want to maintain this margin of error– and why it has defiantly fought to conserve it so long. I have my suspicions (but have gotten myself into enough hot water with slanderous, and accurate, critiques about rottenness in football before that I won’t risk renewed smites by airing my conspiratorial thesis here). I’ll therefore leave it to everyone else out there to ask themselves the above question—and come up with plausible answers to it on their own.

PS. Sorry to squat your post, Sean. I hate to sully your impeccable reputation with the association to yours truly. [SEAN GREGORY NOTE: That's crazy Bruce. Love the passion, and the logic.]

PPS. For the record, England won its only World Cup title, against Germany in 1966, on a “goal” that unlike today’s shot never cleared the line. Call it karmic justice, things balancing out, not being able to win them all—or the historical irony of today’s outrage serving as another opportunity for me to prove my anti-England soccer bone fides by pointing it out. I have a reputation of my own to think about, after all…

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