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Getting the Call Right

This is not a baseball conversation, despite the fact that a bad call ruined a perfect game, this conversation is about what MLS, USSF and even FIFA can do to improve refereeing in the game. Whether a two-handed shove in the back is used to gain possession of the ball is a foul is not in doubt, what is in doubt is should it be called? On a ball that strikes a hand that has recently moved into its position, is that ball to hand, or hand to ball?

Both of these came up last week in the Sounders match. I felt strongly that both should have been called at the time, but upon further review it would seem that those would be hard calls to make. The Center Referee's position did not grant him the best view of either incident, and for the hand ball, the AR was in a horrid position as well. How can soccer get more of these calls right? There have been tests, they are working on it.

FIFA has authorized individual leagues to decide if they want to add two more assistant referees. While the English and Scottish FAs are unlikely to do so, Sounders Senior VP of Operations Gary Wright mention at the Prost Amerika event on May 30 that he felt it was something that MLS and USSF should explore.

At practice last Monday I asked General Manager Adrian Hanauer what he felt about the idea.

I'm a huge believer in technology and any advances that we can make in helping the referees to manage the game. Because it's a big field moving at high speeds, faster, more complicated, more on the line financially and competitively than ever before and it's just going to get more and more difficult. So whether it's goal line referees or technology that help manage the game, I'm a huge proponent. But obviously we have to go through the appropriate channels with FIFA. I know that's something that they've been very measured in their approach to. But as an evolving league I think we should be willing to be an exploratory league in those sort of arenas if coordinated in conjunction with FIFA.

It sounds like a great idea. Two more sets of eyes that are just focused on the penalty area and on goal scoring has to be a good thing right?

But there are questions, not even the English FA think that they have enough trained referees to launch this all at once. At MOST they would do it for the League Cup or the FA Cup to start, and then, over time they would add it to more tournaments. USSF would have to do something similar. Maybe start with the US Open Cup, and as more referees get better, continue to add.

The Goal Line Referees are responsible for monitoring fouls and simulation in the box, as well as whether or not a goal was scored. Like Assistant Referees, they are merely advisors, and can not call a foul on their own. It is at best a minor improvement, and at worse could lead to even more inconsistent officiating.

One of the great things about being on a network is that I don't have to pretend to be an expert on things I haven't seen. I can ask some of the EPL bloggers what they saw when their sides were in Europa League.

First up the Fulham blog - Cottagers Confidential

In the Group Stage matches I watched the goal line referee really did not really come into play. I did notice them a few times during the Roma match at Craven Cottage. I guess you can say since I really did not notice them that much is a good thing. The referees just blended into the match. However, knowing the fact that referees were on the goal line made me confident that if there was an issue it would be resolved correctly. I think this is a step in the right direction. I think the MLS should adopt the Goal Line Referee system.

Everton blog - Royal Blue Mersey

I watched them in action during Everton's Europa League games and I failed to see what they offered to the game. The referee still made all the key decisions himself. Indeed I remember a few occasions where the goal line ref had a better view of certain incidents but didn't appear to help the main referee in making decisions.

In my opinion it is a gimmick designed to hold off goal-line technology for a few years. There seems to be a fear within FIFA that if we introduce goal-line cameras we will suddenly open the floodgates and have robot referee within three years!

I agree the referee's decision should be final and we shouldn't rely totally on technology, but goal-line cameras for the black and white decision of whether the ball crossed the line or not is better than two extra referees in my opinion.

Two EPL sides, watching similar games, and different conclusions.

Personally I prefer extra referees over goal line technology, because of incidents like we saw with Montero against New England. That would be more likely to be a penalty. I want to watch a game of skill, not thuggery, and extra referees, even if only advisors, help that.

What do you see as the solution?

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