Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Nichol for your thoughts?

Now I've done it.

I have put myself right between a rock and a hard place with this entry. To refresh our recollection, take a look at Should We Punish the Innocent? which details allowing referees in the EPL to administer (what I called) "speculative cautions" if they think (feel?) a player is cheating.

While I did not like the idea generally, I was offered a good discussion by an Anon commentator, and even doubled back on myself with regard to offside decisions, in thinking that "when in doubt, keep the flag down."

Now here we have Jim Boyce, VP in FIFA who took over for the still warm seat of Jack Warner when he was launched from the position, looking for video review post-match of diving incidents. His suggestion honestly is not unreasonable in this day and age, and is used in other contexts in many places today.

See "FIFA VP call diving a 'cancer'" for the complete article.

Critical incidents after a match are reviewed in some leagues, some disciplinary committees review on field incidents to stiffen, or loosen a suspension at times. All of this seems reasonable to me, what about diving?

Well, I am less clear on this one, and here's why. Besides characterizing diving as a 'cancer', which to me acts to trivialize the disease (I personally like plague much better), it puts some guy in a glass booth right in the path of altering the outcome of a match by making a decision that should be left for the referee.

Not on the surface this sounds like hubris, and I don't deny that is a factor. However, lets play out a common scenario and see where it goes.

  • Player had ball and carries it to opponents penalty area.
  • Defender challenges the player with the ball and contact is made which is not a foul.
  • Player with the ball simulates a foul.
  • Referee awards a penalty (incorrectly).
  • Team of fouled player converts penalty to win the match.
Pretty common right?

Now give the review is POST-match, does the result of the match stand? Why not only take action on the individual player, but also the team by not counting the goal? But wait, if there was no goal, how would the rest of the match gone? Was the converted PK the goal that broke the defending team?

I hate video review honestly. I do. I think it starts to sap the life out of any game that uses it to alter action on the playing surface. To me the most egregious is the NFL who is just one step away from doing something like American Idol, where they show the TV audience the play, and for .99 everyone votes on it during a commercial break. Popular vote gets the call.

MLB with balls hitting foul poles and the like I think is the best use as the distances are so far, and motion so slight, that this makes good sense to me.

I do agree with the use of video after the fact for suspensions and violent conduct after a match. In these cases the referee has made a decision and it is the length of time or fine that is changing, not the decision itself generally.

So for me, doing something like this after the fact just opens the box for tinkering with on pitch incidents that can have massive adverse effects to results. I would think we want to minimize the outside interference and "let them play", not wind up with 10's of people reviewing every inch of film only to have to wait a week for a decision on something that was done in an instant inside the field.

Take particular look at the video clip as well, Steve Nichol makes a great point of what a managers role is in such diving incidents. For those who have never had the pleasure of working with Steve in a referee-manager situation, it demonstrates what a class act he truly is.


  1. I think the difference between what you are rightly complaining about (NFL in-game review) and what is mostly being suggested (post-game review for sanctions) is significant. I agree that we don't want anything distracting from the game at hand, which is why I think goal line tech is a good thing for the upper reaches of the game (and the middle bits, too, once the tech comes down in price like it always does). There are some decisions that are too hard to make accurately in the game because of distance and sight (AR judging the ball having gone completely over the goal line at game speed), but there are some that are difficult to make because it's impossible to judge cause and effect at game speed when players are trying to deceive you. So while I don't ever want to see a match result changed because of after-the-fact video analysis, I think we'd see diving disappear at high levels (and therefore at lower levels) if substantial bans were handed out in cases of obvious diving that can be determined through video evidence. Not £40000 fines in the EPL, but £1000000 fines and a three month ban would result in a lot less of this behaviour.

  2. Great comment James. I agree with you, and if we were collectively sure that teams would not play the "what if" game after the fact and accept the fine and decision, or that referees would not be adversely effected by simulating players, I would support this.

    My fear of course, is they will not.

    Thanks for reading,