Blatter Guilty Of Crimes Against Football

By Richard Johnson
Sepp Blatter, the FIFA potentate, sparked a furious debate last week when he revealed that football managers could soon be handed in-game referrals to challenge referee’s decisions.

In layman’s language, he’s proposing a system whereby coaches are allowed to question the decisions of referees during, not after, a game. For, instance, if a referee makes an offside call or gives a goal, a coach on the receiving end of such a decision will be allowed to challenge the decision, like tennis players currently do.

The FIFA president said managers could, once or twice a half, question the referee’s decision. He also insisted that the ‘call system’ would not work like the third-umpire in cricket, as the power to overturn would remain with the referee.

Hear him: “I will propose to the international board to try and bring this so-called ‘call’ that the coaches or team managers have the right in the half, twice or once to have a call to challenge a refereeing decision but only when the game has stopped. Then there must be a monitor by the television company, then the referee and coach look at it and the referee may then change his mind as is the case in tennis for instance.

In American football, the chief referee figure does not look at the evidence. That is done by someone off the pitch as it is done in cricket. It is referred to another referee or umpire, but you are going to engage the referee (in my own proposal). He can look at it, but he made the decision that was wrong so he has to change it.I hope to bring it to the attention and hopefully we can find a league, semi-professional or professional that will try to do it.

It can only be done where there is television coverage of all the matches, or in one of FIFA’s competitions, a youth competition in FIFA to do so, an Under 20 like next year we are in New Zealand so we could test such a ‘challenge calls’.”

At first glance, giving the sub-par performances of some referees and the genuine mistakes of others, it should be a welcome development for the authority of the referees to be challenged and I can instantly recall a number of refereeing decisions I would have loved to put to the strictest proof. It is also absurd the kind of power of ‘life and death’ which referees currently have as the final outcome of games cannot be changed even where there is glaring evidence that the referee erred. It’s heartlifting to know that teams now have a recourse to a system which will keep a leash on the excesses of game officials.

Also, over passionate managers like Jose Mourinho and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone who are considered outspoken may have been behaving like that because they know they are not able to upturn a decision once made. With this new system, one can expect them to become mellow and less brash because they know they can always challenge the calls. Exciting, abi?

However, on second thoughts, one must be rational enough to know that there are a lot of pitfalls inherent in the proposal and I will quickly set out some of them here.

One, the fact that managers can only make such calls once or twice is self-limiting because we have seen instances where referees make two or more mistakes in one single game. So, I ask, what happens when you have already challenged the referee twice, as allowed by law, and he goes ahead to make other dubious calls? Will you, like they say in my hood, leave him for God?

Secondly, Blatter’s proposal is elitist. It will only be practicable where a game is on television and video replays are available to be reviewed. This automatically knocks out a good majority of African leagues that do not have television coverage. In Nigeria, for instance, where only one or two Premier League games are on cable tv, what happens to the remaining eight games played in each game week?

Thirdly, the time to verify a challenge call will unnecessary prolong game time and, in this age of huge tv rights money where television companies are hard-pressed to squeeze in games in their limited schedule, you can bet your last nickel they won’t find Mr Blatter’s proposal funny one bit. And, before you ask, the television companies matter because the revenue we get from them has helped to make FIFA and the big clubs stupendously wealthy.

To be fair, Blatter’s idea seem at once revolutionary and also a recipe for chaos and one must look for all the potential banana skins that could trip up a good idea and leave it open for manipulations. I’m intrigued by the idea that referees decisions will be questioned but still fear that we may be building a Frankenstein monster in overzealous managers who will cry foul at every call.

Where do you stand on this? Do you agree that Blatter’s idea is the best way to curb referees excesses or do you see a storm brewing like I do?


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