Shandrew (shandrew) wrote,

Dear Internet, FIFA doesn't care about your complaints about bad refereeing

Soccer refereeing ranges from mediocre to horrible. We already knew that. This is something that comes up at every World Cup, the couple of weeks every four years when Americans watch adult soccer. How can one referee cover a huge soccer field and watch 22 players, with minimal assistance from a couple sideline refs? It's an impossible job to perform perfectly. Errors are frequent. Game-changing errors are not uncommon. Solutions ranging from more referees to instant reply abound. FIFA doesn't care.

FIFA's not going to change. I don't know much about them, but I presume that their goals are to get more interest and more money into soccer. Would better refereeing contribute to either of those goals? I don't think so. The reaction of the U.S. players is telling. The U.S. goalie, Tim Howard, stated, "Some of those stories have been trickling into our camp, how people are up in arms and can’t believe the call, and that’s pretty cool".

Sport is not life-or-death[*]. Sports are about performance and drama. The drama of blown calls brought U.S. fans into the sport; we talk about it and write about it. I'm sure someone at FIFA is rejoicing at how many twitter messages show up every time there's a bad call. Drama draws in fans. Talking about sports draws in fans virally. FIFA understands that perfect refereeing is not what makes sports popular. Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game brought out more attention than Roy Halladay's perfect game.

If your team is outplayed, like England was today, a blown call gives fans and players something to complain about. Sure, we were totally beaten, 4-1, but hey, maybe if they had called that second goal right, we would have played differently and would have won. FIFA will only implement replay if the players want it (unlikely, they're all accustomed to this kind of refereeing) or if FIFA can be convinced that they're losing fans because of bad calls.

So write FIFA and tell them "I'm not watching the World Cup unless you implement instant replay" and don't write about the bad calls--write that you're never watching soccer again. But I know you won't. You love the drama too much.

[Ok, I actually think instant replay actually will start being used in soccer, simply because every other big sport uses it. There are two kinds: awful, like NBA replay, and entertaining, like tennis replay. Fans love tennis replay; it's fast and fun to watch the computer recreation of the shot. EVERYONE hates NBA replay (except for some broadcasters who claim "what's important is they got the call right"). It's ridiculously slow and breaks the flow of a game, and is used mostly towards the end of the game which is already far too slow.]

[*] Usually. Watch the amazing 30 For 30 documentary The Two Escobars to see how ugly sports can get when there is too much at stake.
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