Are referees affecting the outcome of soccer games?

Courtesy of MLS

Courtesy of MLS

Manas Sood, Sports Editor

One of the most controversial calls made by a referee in the history of international soccer occurred when Frank Lampard’s shot during England’s 2010 match against Germany hit the crossbar, bounced into the goal, and bounced out. Referee Jorge Larrionda notoriously rejected the goal. As England’s players pleaded with the referee to award them the point, Larrionda stood by his decision. It would not be a goal, and England would not advance following that game. This instance brought into question the reliability of the referee, and what could be done to fix this issue.

The English Premier League (EPL) has had its own share of problems with referees concerning their authority and consistency. A solution for the latter has been proposed and installed, as goal line technology was used successfully at the 2014 World Cup.

Addressing the first dilemma, many advocates for video replay have stepped forward, arguing that it would increase the integrity of soccer, holding referees more accountable. Video would have been helpful in several circumstances, including a 2005 EPL match between Manchester United and Tottenham where, as the BBC reported, “[Pedro] Mendes shot from 50 yards and United goalkeeper Roy Carroll spilled the ball into his own net before hooking it clear.” Linesman Rob Lewis did not award the goal, even as then Tottenham manager Martin Jol exclaimed after the game that “We are not talking about the ball being a couple of centimeters or an inch or two over the line, it was a meter inside the goal.” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson reflected upon the decision as well, explaining that “What I was against originally was the time factor in video replay. But I read an article the other day which suggested that if a referee can’t make up his mind after 30 seconds of watching a video replay then the game should carry on. Thirty seconds is about the same amount of time it takes to organize a free-kick or take a corner or a goal-kick. So you wouldn’t be wasting a lot of time.”

The referee’s effect on the outcome of the game is arguably much greater than that of a player or coach; he is the lone man on the field who has the power to give or take away a goal and caution or send off a player or coach. His actions may even shift the entire momentum of the game, thus favoring one side. With so much control, it only makes sense that referees should be aided in making the correct decisions when it comes time to do so. We, as avid soccer fans, fail to understand that referees are human as well; they too can make mistakes. Equipment including goal line technology and perhaps video replay will greatly improve the beautiful game of soccer. It just takes one critically errant call to make the case.

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