Archive for June, 2010

Blatter apologises for mistakes

FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, yesterday apologised at a media briefing to the English and Mexican teams for the mistakes which were made in their final matches against Germany and Argentina respectively.

“It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to reopen the file on goal-line technology,” stated Blatter.

The Tevez goal – the first in Argentina’s second round win on Sunday – was replayed on the screens in the stadium, sparking angry clashes between officials and the Mexican players and coaches.

“Personally I deplore it when you see evident referee mistakes but it’s not the end of a competition or the end of football, this can happen,” added Blatter.

“Yesterday I spoke to the two federations [England and Mexico] directly concerned by referees’ mistakes.”

“I have expressed to them apologies and I understand they are not happy and that people are criticising.”

“We will naturally take on board the discussion on technology and have the first opportunity at the next meeting of the International FA Board in July.”

Blatter was not saying that the correct decisions on both goals would have been given. He was saying that goal line technology will be discussed in the light of the high profile mistake made at the weekend which disallowed Frank Lampard’s goal.

This means changes will take place, but only regarding goal line technology.

The video replay which would have been necessary to show the mistake with the Tevez goal will still not be allowed.

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Departures from Pretoria

The cut off point for referees in a World Cup takes place after the round of 16.

In South Africa 10 referee teams have been released from the Referee Headquarters in Pretoria.

The highest profile ones to be released were those involved in the major controversies but FIFA have also released the reserve trios who often acted as fourth officials or reserve assistants.

When referees leave the camp at this point in a tournament, the whole dynamics of the referee headquarters changes.

Where there were 81 officials on Tuesday, by Thursday there will be 57 and friends who have been part of a team for over four weeks will say goodbye to each other.

Living in together in a training camp can be a problem for both players and referees.

Some can cope with the situation but others find the camp boring, especially if they are not playing or refereeing. Some become homesick and miss their families and are desperate to go home while others want to stay to referee the Final.

I am surprised that FIFA have kept 19 referees since there are only 8 matches left. At best this will mean 16 referees being appointed. In actual fact some referees will probably receive more than one appointment which means that there will a number of officials who will be in the camp for the next two weeks but whose active participation is over.

 Others in the Referee Headquarters in Pretoria will be hoping to be appointed to the biggest game of their lives.

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Cut off point

The referees who will be available for the Quarter Final Matches tournament were announced today and it is no surprise that the referees who were involved in the tournament’s major controversies will be going home.

So the World Cup journey has finished for Koman Coulibali of Mali who disallowed a perfectly good American goal in the final minutes of the match against Slovenia and for Stephane Lannoy of France who allowed a Luis Fabiano goal to stand despite the Brazilian striker handling the ball twice. He also wrongly sent off Brazilian star Kaka.

Also leaving South Africa are Roberto Rosetti of Italy who allowed an offside goal by Carlos Tevez of Argentina in the match against Mexico and Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay who failed to spot that a shot by England’s Frank Lampard had crossed the line in the match against Germany.

In all 10 of the 29 referee teams originally selected have been axed.

The participation of some who have been retained will depend on the results of their own national teams in the quarter final matches of the competition.

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Referee masterclass

Many people were looking forward to tonight’s Spain v Portugal tie but the match was disappointing.

Spain were positive – Portugal were negative and the game failed to live up to expectations.

Spain had 61% of possession while Portugal had 39%.

Former FIFA World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, contributed little since he was isolated up front as his team mates defended in depth.

Referee Hector Baldassi of Argentina, however, came out of the match with a lot of credit. It was an excellent appointment by FIFA since he had the feel for the match between the two Iberian neighbours.

He refused to be taken in by the diving and theatrics of the players of both teams. He did not get every call right but he awarded decisions from close range and was always in charge. The players respected him.

It was a top class performance from a referee who is highly experienced in the white hot atmosphere of Argentinian and South American football.

His further participation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup may be limited because of the progress of Argentina in the tournament but he can be well satisfied by what may be his last match.

When there is a big match, appoint a top official.

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We are nearer goal line technology

The goal line technology debate is now headline news.

Following the major error in the England v Germany match when a Frank Lampard goal was disallowed when it was clearly over the line, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has stated that he now wishes to re-open the goal line technology debate.

He had no other option.

FIFA declared at the International FA Board AGM in February that it wanted to end all goal line technology research and experiments, much to the disappointment of the Football association and the Scottish Football Association.

Events in South Africa have since proved this stance to be deeply flawed and at a news briefing today, the FIFA President said:

“Having witnessed such a situation,” Blatter said, “we have to open again this file, definitely. Naturally we will take on board again the discussion about technology. Something has to be changed.”

I expect the go ahead to be given to the companies researching the technology.

This is a very complex technical problem and has been investigated for a number of years.

Hawkeye in tennis is not the same as Hawkeye in football since the goals are not just the goal line, but a surface from the ground to the crossbar through which the whole ball must pass.

The adidas/Cairos system works with a microchip in the ball and there have already been problems in its experimental stage during the 2008 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile.

There is no reason why both systems should not be available to leagues or national associations which wish to use the technology so long as they have been proved to be effective.

There is still some way to go before we have a system which is 100% and we may never reach that target, but things have definitely changed in the last two days.

Sepp Blatter is aware he must change his position and he will.

As far as video replays are concerned, however, there is no chance of them being approved.

And rightly so!

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The top teams emerge

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is now getting to the interesting stage.

Sudden death matches in the round of 16 onwards mean that there is no benefit in taking a negative approach.

The top teams are beginning to emerge.

Germany v Argentina is a mouth watering encounter in the quarter finals as is the match between Brazil and Holland.

In refereeing the top teams are also beginning to emerge.

Howard Webb of England was always in control of the last 16 match between Brazil and Chile while the refereeing controversies on Sunday involving Roberto Rosetti of Italy and Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay will surely be a major hindrance to their advance in the tournament.

Alberto Udiano of Spain had a better performance in the match between Netherlands and Slovakia, after his first match but it is difficult to see him featuring in the final stages of the competition.

Progress of the referees in the World Cup is also influenced by the success of their own teams.

Rosetti and Webb will have a chance to progress now that Italy and England are out of the tournament, as will Massimo Bussaco of Switzerland.

For the South American referees the chances of progress seem limited because South American teams have been very successful so far.

Expect early exits from the World Cup for Hector Baldassi of Argentina and Carlos Simon of Brazil because of the progress of their own teams.

Two dark horses will be the Asian referees, Yuichi Nishimura and Ravshan Irmatov who have each moved through their first three matches without controversy.

There are seven matches left after Tuesday’s ties and there is all to play for both players and referees.

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No video replays please

The controversies about refereeing decisions in South Africa continue.

Three of the most controversial were the American goal which was disallowed against Slovenia, the English ball over the line goal against Germany and the first Argentina  goal against Mexico.

Three wrong decisions but three very different situations in my opinion.

Let’s look at the American goal first.

After a great second half fight back, victory was denied to the USA after Mali referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed a perfectly good goal by Maurice Edu.

In my opinion this was not a case of needing a video replay to see the incident again. This was a case of a referee out of his depth who did not have the courage to make the decision which would have decided the match.

The disallowed goal from England’s Frank Lampard could have been avoided by goal line technology. As I mentioned yesterday, there are two systems to the fore at present – one is Hawkeye, based on the tennis system and the other is the adidas/Cairos system based on a chip in the ball.

Both claim to be able to give the referee a direct signal when the ball crosses the goal line within one second.

If these claims are correct I believe the experiments should be encouraged to continue and when suitable, well tested systems are developed they should be introduced, in the same way we now have radio communication between the referee team.

What is a key consideration, however, is that the decision is transmitted directly to the referee, not passed on by a video referee in the stand. 

Which brings me to the first Argentinian goal against Mexico.

This goal was offside and gave the lead to Argentina after a very positive first quarter of an hour by Mexico. It was a mistake by the Italian assistant which should not have happened.

What made the situation worse was that the incident was replayed on the stadium television screens and the Mexican players were able to point out to the referee and the assistant that he had made a mistake.

I am sure FIFA will make sure this does not happen again.

I do not believe we should use video technology in such situations.

I support the use of goal line technology which sends a direct signal to the referee but I do not support action replays which are judged by a video referee in the stand for a number of reasons.

Who decides what is a controversial decision?

If it is anyone other than the referee the fundamental that the referee’s decision is final immediately changes.

The referee has given his opinion with his first decision. Who tells him he might be wrong?

Who judges the video?

An experienced referee? Maybe. Then a non-field person is taking charge of a field decision. This also against the principles of football match control.

What happens when the replay is being reviewed? Does play stop or does it continue?

If play stops, where will the match be restarted from?

The Laws of the game will have to be completely rewritten to include this situation.

I have seen rugby video replays where the video referee took up to two minutes to make a decision – and it was wrong. This would not be acceptable in the dynamic sport that is football.

What should be reviewed? Offside decisions, fouls, red cards, penalty kicks? Sometimes a goal can result from a wrongly awarded throw in. Do we have video replays for throws in?

Do we then have to review every possible controversy in a match?

I could go on and on.

I fully support FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, in his stand against video evidence. No matter what the media and others in the game say, just because something is popular does not make it correct or good for football in the long term.

He said recently “If play were to be stopped to take a decision, it would break up the rhythm of the game and possibly deny a team the opportunity to score a goal. It would also not make sense to stop play every two minutes to review a decision, as this would go against the natural dynamism of the game.”

Football is the world’s most popular game because it is a simple game where opinions are the lifeblood of the sport – either made by a referee or argued by two supporters in a pub after the match.

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The beautiful game

I have already mentioned the mistakes made by the refereeing teams on Sunday in the matches between Germany and England and Mexico and Argentina.

These were major decisions which possibly had a big influence on the results.

But mistakes are part of football.

What about the mistake of Mexican number 5 Ricardo Osorios which gifted Argentina its second goal?

Or what about the mistake of the English central defence for the first two German goals?

Gareth Barry of England will not want to look at replays of the last two German goals.

We must keep things in perspective.

Football is a game of opinions, passion, great skill and major mistakes.

Long may the beautiful game continue to be so!

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Sunday was not a good day for the refereeing teams.

In the afternoon match between Germany and England we had a major error by the Uruguayan assistant to deny Frank Lampard of England a clear goal when the ball struck the crossbar and bounced over the line.

This had a major influence on the match since England, although not playing well would have gone in at half time level, with every chance of changing things round in the second half.

In the evening match we had another error by an assistant referee when the Italian official failed to signal that Carlos Tevez of Argentina was offside by at least one metre when the ball was played to him by Lionel Messi.

 It does not matter what position he was in when he headed the ball, the important point is where he was standing when the ball was played.

Losing this goal was a major blow to the Mexican team which had more than held its own with the talented Argentinians until then.

On 11th June, the first day of the World Cup, I mentioned in my first article:

‘This raises the question of where the problems could arise during the tournament. The most obvious problems will occur with the assistants.’

I think this comment has proved to be correct today.

The refereeing teams progress as a team or fail as a team.

The refereeing teams today made major errors.

It is very difficult to see how FIFA can give another appointment in the quarter final, semi final or final to the refereeing teams of Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay and Roberto Rosetti of Italy.

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It had to happen sometime and it happened in the highest profile match of the tournament so far.

The controversial decision not to award a goal when England midfielder Frank Lampard’s lob rebounded from the crossbar and crossed the goal line has re-ignite the whole question of goal line technology and video replays.

I say goal line technology and video replays because I believe the two things are very different.

Goal line technology, if it can be perfected to send a direct signal to the referee in the space of at least two seconds, must be now considered.

I have been involved in the concept of goal line technology for almost 20 years at the Scottish Football Association, the International FA Board and FIFA.

I have seen demonstrations by a number of inventors. Some ideas involved blasting the goal with a number of laser beams – hardly a safe environment for the goalkeeper.

Others involved chip technology where each match ball had a chip inserted and so its exact position could be determined at all times, including when it crossed the goal line.

The trials of this technology were not so successful during the 2008 FIFA World Youth Championships in Chile. When a second ball was mistakenly thrown on by a ball boy the system could not register it and the system had to recalibrate.

adidas and Cairos, the development company involved, decided that more research was needed after the 2008 experience.

In tennis, the Hawkeye system has become a well accepted system in the Grand Slam tournaments.

With the encouragement of the Football Association, it had refined the system for use in football and the suggestions were that it had potential.

At the International FA Board meeting in 2010, however, FIFA stated that it did not wish to proceed with any form of video technology, and after a split vote its views were accepted.

It did give approval for the proposal of UEFA President, Michel Platini, to have an addition two assistants on each goal line to go ahead as an experiment in the UEFA Europa Cup Competition.

In my opinion, the decision to reject goal line technology was taken too soon.

Both Hawkeye and adidas/Cairos had redefined and developed their systems and they should have been given more time to prove their value.

I go back to my original point, however. Any system must be self standing and give a direct indication to the referee within a few seconds.

It is only possible also in national leagues with large amounts of finance available to install the selected system in every stadium or in major tournaments such as the World Cup.

I said earlier that video replays were a different matter.

I am strongly against the use of video replays since that takes us into a much wider argument.

More of that tomorrow.

This blog was posted just as Argentina scored its first goal in the match against Mexico.

Need I say more!

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