Sepp Blatter in good idea shocker!

An excellent World Cup so far full of shocks. Who’d have thought we would have had to wait for the thirteenth match for the first 0-0 draw, or that Spain and Portugal would be bottom of their groups and Costa Rica top of theirs? But the most important incident was France’s second goal against Honduras which saw the first use of goal line technology thus confirming that football has finally caught up with the 21st century.
But the biggest surprise happened at the FIFA congress where Sepp Blatter had a good idea. Yes the guy who as British football writer Brian Glanville put it “has 50 ideas before breakfast and 51 are bad” actually had a good one. While it wasn’t “I resign” or “I’m moving the 2022 World Cup to a more suitable venue”(anywhere else in the world would be more suitable) one must be thankful for small mercies. His idea was that managers should be allowed to challenge referee’s decisions twice a game. While he was vague about it – deliberately so? – and it still has to get past the International Football Association Board – an organisation that makes FIFA look progressive – a look at other sports shows the potential impact of Blatter’s plan.
Three sports I’m interested in – baseball cricket and tennis – have all adopted something similar. And despite teething problems the benefits are clear. The tennis system is the easiest to understand as it applies to wither the ball is in or out in close plays. Hawkeye is accurate the system is quick and the McEnroe style tantrums tennis used to be renowned for are history.
The cricket system is more interesting since although it is a team game it is up to the individual player wither or not to challenge the umpire’s call. If a challenge is wrong the team loses a review and it was interesting during last summer’s Ashes to see certain players reviewing all the time mostly being proved wrong and costing their team a review (I’m talking about you Shane Watson and Stuart Broad!). Yet only yesterday – at the end of a thrilling Test between England and Sri Lanka – we saw the system working. Sri Lanka’s last man Nuwan Pradeep was given out. It was obviously an incorrect call he challenged it and TV confirmed the umpire’s mistake. It cost England a win but justice was seen to be done and had the system not been there it would have caused A LOT of controversy.
Baseball is the newest convert to this system having adopted it just this year. Here it is the manager that can challenge a call – one a game (two if his first challenge is proved right). Although it is still early days it has calmed down a game in which according to Mike Marquesse “dissent is commonplace;abusing the umpire is a cherished national tradition” (Mike Marquesse “Anyone but England” page 199). Manager ejections are way down this year as they can now challenge bad calls instead of going on to the field to shout at the umpire and get ejected as a result. That has to be a good thing.
So the evidence from other sports is that a video challenge system can cut down on bad decisions (I’m sure Croatia and Mexico to name but two teams at this World Cup would welcome this) and it would also cut down on dissent and diving as cheats would know that TV would catch them out and they would not gain an advantage (which everybody would agree with). If football has any sense at all – and the struggle to get goal line technology introduced makes one unsure of this – it is not a case of if it is introduced but when
So the unthinkable has happened. Sepp Blatter has had a good idea. Miracles can happen. Now if the BBC can get Phil Neville to say something interesting that would be another miracle…


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