Tell IFAB to keep video review out, deceit and error in our beloved game

Experimenting with video replays during matches has been put on the shelf for at least 12 months. That’s one of the conclusions from the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which just concluded its 129th Annual General Meeting in Belfast.

The Guardian reports:

The Dutch FA has been conducting an experiment in which referees were able to pinpoint which decisions they may have made differently had they had access to advice from another official viewing replays in an outside broadcast lorry. But live trials during a match could not go ahead without IFAB approval and there was a split within the board – made up of the four home nations and four FIFA representatives – over how to proceed.

[FIFA Secretary General Jerome] Valcke said FIFA had not received the same presentations as the home nation FAs on the Dutch experiment and so favoured further discussion. Greg Dyke, the Football Association chairman, and Stewart Regan, the Scottish FA chief executive, were known to be keen to press ahead with live experiments.

According to Valcke:

We have not just talked about the issue of video in terms of yes or no, do we like it or not like it, is it going against the game or not, against the referee or not. It was the level of discussion where we all understood what it would mean the day we would say yes to video. If you say yes to the video in the penalty area, it’s yes to the video during the whole game. It would take a few months or a year. It’s the biggest decision that would come out from the IFAB, ever. And that’s why it’s not a question of years, it’s about making the biggest decision ever in the way football is played.

“The biggest decision ever in the way football is played.” That’s a heavy statement. Take that, back-pass rule.

Even though the process will undergo further evaluation, this is progress, at least for those who think that video replay is a good thing. But is it really progress? What does the game look like when stripped of controversy? The answer is “boring,” but fortunately, that’s never going to happen.

Eventually, if video replay arrives, what started out as fans and coaches raging about missed calls will simply morph into arguments about whether replay should have been used for a given incident. People will argue about the interpretations of the interpreters, only things will be little worse. Video replay isn’t remotely as entertaining as a real-time botched call or a cheating artist.

Some have noted replay can help eradicate that cheating artist, leaning on the notion we have to “clean up the game.” The presumption is hilarious, mostly because those the things presumed dirty being a necessary part of soccer.

To be clear, I’m a proponent of diving because I’m a proponent of entertainment. And that’s why I watch games — to be entertained, not out of some puritanical need to watch people fairly challenge each other. I’m also a proponent of players getting caught diving or shirt-pulling, because you deserve what’s coming if you aren’t suave enough to escape surveillance.

I’m into players coaxing defenders into vulnerable positions and then using defenders’ proximity and appendages for evil. I’m into the psychological warfare that goes into seeking an advantage. I’m into missed calls because I’m into people getting worked up. Worked up people are entertaining. I’m into Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland because, although France ended up being terrible in South Africa, no one not Irish, who actually likes soccer, really wanted or needed to see that Ireland team at a World Cup. That was also entertaining. In fact, it still is.

I’m into instant replays of missed incidents so I, like everyone else, can say, HOW DID THE REFEREE MISS THAT CALL? We are addicted to these feelings. We are addicted to the pursuit of equity, but only when convenient. These are just facts.

Here are some more facts: Video replay isn’t your savior. It won’t fix the integrity of the game. More people are watching the game than ever and paying more money to see it, which might mean that we, collectively, don’t care as much about integrity as we claim. People don’t avoid soccer because of a lack of integrity, despite their self-righteous claims. People who say they don’t like soccer because of the diving and simulation are lying because that’s not a reason to dislike something you’d otherwise like. Soccer fans prove that every day.

So please join me on my “say no to replays” crusade. It’s a quest to keep the game pure, and by “pure” I mean full of deceit and error. And if you must know, this crusade will only take place on Twitter when clearly incorrect decisions help teams I abhor.

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