The World Cup can bring out the good and bad in players. Some of the bad include diving, faking, gesturing, foul language, time wasting, and dissent to name some of the less violent offenses. The players who do it in the World Cup also do it outside of the World Cup, but it seems like the pressure, and sometimes the referees, encourage players who normally wouldn’t participate in these low brow tactics to give it a try. It’s been a shame to watch slow motion replays of players arching their back, bending their knees, and going to the ground without contact. it’s nothing new, it’s not surprising, and we’re made to think that this is “part of the modern game,” unavoidable. FIFA acts as though there’s nothing they can do about it. They’re wrong.
A five year plan of progressively stricter policies could help if not eliminate many of the problems. Why? Because the direction we’re headed in is getting uglier and uglier and frankly ruining the game. How good could Ronaldo be if he didn’t go down so easy? How broke would Pepe be if FIFA fined him for the hand stomping and head butting? When an avid fan holds their hands on their head during the very first game of the World Cup because a penalty kick is given for a player who slips – sorry, but that ruins the game for the fan.
Year 1: FIFA announces that dissent will result in a yellow card and fines every time. Enough with non-captains talking to the referee. Enough with crowds of players encircling the referee to plead their cases. Only captains and coaches may speak to the referee. Any player who touches, talks back to, gets into the personal space of, yells at, or verbally disagrees with a referee is given a yellow card and potentially a post game fine. Two times is a red and a larger fine. FIFA won’t gain respect until they respect themselves. Money talks, and this game needs no more emotion injected into it. Let’s get more rational and logical.
Year 2: Dissent and Penalty Kick Replay. FIFA continues with the strategy above and then introduces Penalty Kick video replay. The whistle has blown, the referee has seen a foul in the box, and play is stopped. If there is a question with the call it takes thirty seconds for a referee in the upper booth to review the play and radio down the call; yes, it was a penalty, no it was not. A super simple way to introduce replay technology to the game that doesn’t disrupt the flow of the game. If it’s a good call, then a penalty kick is taken. If it was not a penalty, and it was a dive, the other team has a free kick from that spot and thirty seconds (or the time it took to review) is added to the half.
Year 3: FIFA announces post game fines for faking and diving. Without slowing down the flow of the game or changing anything that happens on the field, referees review the game and the foul calls during the game. If it can be determined without doubt that a player “faked” the foul and therefore deceived the referee, the other players and the fans, then that player is given a copy of the video tape and a fine. If they choose to dispute the decision, then a mediation forum is assembled and the case is individually considered then a final judgement is made. In short, FIFA begins policing players who fake, dive, and commit fouls away from the view of the referee. It is published that FIFA’s intention of doing so is because video replay technology will be introduced in the future that will help referees call these fouls in real time.
Year 4: FIFA begins reviewing all fouls called on the field and giving the center referee feedback via headphone technology. The call is not changed but it is noted whether the call was correct or incorrect and play continues. Years ago center referees started wearing inner ear technology, but we haven’t seen any improvements in calls and we’ve never seen a referee change their mind based on the communications they are receiving in their ear. Post game, the list of fouls called is published and based on replay technology it’s noted next to the foul if it was correct, incorrect, or could not be determined based on the video analysis available. Coaches may protest games based on this information, and the protest process is then followed and includes this evidence.
Year 5: FIFA introduces “real time” referee feedback. The referee blows his whistle when he sees a foul. Play stops and a referee in a booth reviewing the call radios down to the center referee if it was a good or bad decision. If it was good a free kick is taken, if it cannot be determined, the free kick is given, if it was a bad call, then a drop ball is given and play continues. This will accomplish multiple things. Referees will make fewer calls and allow the players to play. The game will become more accurate. Penalty kicks will not be given for diving or slipping at the highest level of the game when the world is the audience. Unfortunately there is a down side. Quick restarts may be affected if the call is controversial. Or perhaps the quick restart can go on, but if controversial information is communicated to the center referee seconds later, he stops the game and brings the ball back for a drop ball. If not – advantage quick restart.
What’s not to like about less whining, discouraging diving, penalizing faking and becoming more accurate about penalty kicks and fouls? Statistics should include fouls and penalties. We have the technology, why shouldn’t we use it? When the hosting team is given a penalty kick in their first game of the World Cup and the replay clearly shows no contact, only a slip, and that goal changes the entire flow of the match, it’s a shame for the game. We should be implementing technology that discourages inaccuracy in the game. If the only thing that matters is the score at the end of the game, then let’s make sure it is fair and untainted.