Time for FIFA to help refs

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:49 PM ET

DURBAN -- For an organization that claims to want to advance the game of football, FIFA has a strange way of showing it.

Nothing affects the game like officiating.

It especially affects the perception when the game is played in the global spotlight like the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

New fans are enticed to take a look simply because of the tournament's size and scope. Casual fans become ardent fans. So what do those fans see?

A great game ruined by poor officiating?

If there is one thing this World Cup has proved to everyone except FIFA is that referees need help. This isn't a one off. This isn't some league game where the mistake is made and everyone moves on.

This is the global stage, a stage where the best teams are fighting to win one of the greatest prizes in sport, the World Cup. So what happens on this massive stage? The officiating group suffers an epidemic of incompetence.

It isn't just one or two bad decisions and they aren't just minor decisions. It is a succession of horrendous, game-changing decisions. Decisions that prove so difficult to believe that they bring the game into disrepute.

There is a list of game changing decisions that defy belief. They get riper as the tournament progresses so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that Sunday proved the most ridiculous of the bunch.

Whether the first caused the elimination of a team from the tournament is debatable but it certainly didn't help. In the game between England and Germany, Frank Lampard's first half shot went off the crossbar and clearly crossed the line for what would have been a 2-2 equalizer. No goal was credited. Germany went on to win 4-1.

A few hours later, Carlos Tevez was at least three yards offside when he headed in Argentina's opening game of the match against Mexico. Again, whether the result would have been any different is open to debate but those types of decisions should not be the focal point of a football match. Argentina went on to win 3-1.

Virtually everyone, except FIFA could see this coming. There have been game-changing incidents leading up to this World Cup that could only be a prelude to this happening at the World Cup.

The only thing that is surprising is the quantity and quality of the mistakes. Assistant referees (linesmen) make innumerable errors on calls because they aren't quick enough to line themselves up with the last player on defence.

While Lampard's goal in Sunday was clearly in, the assistant referee had to stay in line with the last player. There was no way he could move quickly enough to watch where the ball bounced after it hit the crossbar. Referees have to make calls from 40 yards away.

It's going to take more than changing one thing to fix the problem. The game has become too quick and too many players cheat to simply fix the game by instituting instant replay. But instant replay is a good start.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter isn't a fan of moving into the modern era. He doesn't want to take the human element out of the game and opposes video technology. But what if the human element is ruining the game? Would you not want to fix it?

FIFA is certainly worried about its image. None of Fabio Capello's comments about the officiating made it to the quotes section of the FIFA media page. Blatter is as archaic as they come. That's why a decision that should take weeks is taking years to make.

The idea of adding two linesmen on the goalline to help the officials is a good one. That will likely be implemented after the disaster that's been this World Cup and the pressure that England will put on FIFA.

Instant replay for all goals is needed and for all disputed non-goals. Make the offside rule a lot simpler. It's only offside if there is clear space between the second-last defender and the attacking player.

Referees don't like it but they make far too many mistakes to justify things remaining the same. Now it's also time to make the referee's work a little easier. It's a suggestion made before. Put a second referee on the field so that they only have to handle one half each. It will make it easier to get in position to see the play.

Referees won't like it because like players, they have enormous egos.

Considering how quickly FIFA moves, those four suggestions should take, oh about 30 years to implement.


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