Microchips, Replays and Soccer: Should the Refs go High-Tech?

The beautiful game has to be arguably one of, if not the most difficult to succesfully ‘ref’. In essence, 4 men have about 9,600 sq. yards of pitch, 22 players never standing still and, most notably, very few breaks in play.

Given these odds against, is it any wonder that just about any game one sees has at least one very questionable call. It is always devastating for a fan to see, seconds after a move, a video replay showing ‘the truth’ that the officials are not privy to and therefore cannot take into account.

As a result, games move on, often unfairly and without apology.

Travesties are not hard to come by. For Instance:

– Tevez clearing his own team’s shot off the line from an offside position but the goal stands. (E.P.L. Spring ’07).

– Messi/Maradona fist in a vital header in a devestatingly crucial match. (La Liga Spring ’07/W.C. semi 1986).

– [Insert Name Here] dives in the box for a 90th minute penalty (any week, somewhere).

The list goes on and on. Is this really acceptable? Wouldn’t we rather have matches decided by merit rather than by one team’s ability to “get away with this or that”?

Entire cup ties (Chelsea vs. Liverpool, C.L semi 2005, comes to mind) are decided by one, dubious goal. It hardly seems fair (Though in truth, as a Red, Garcia’s poke felt no less valid to me than Hurst’s 1966 World Cup ‘ricochet’ vs. Germany, but I can see how the Blues’ faithful could disagree).

Now the “good” news is the technology is already here to prevent much of this controversy, but the footballing world will have an important decision to make; Are we willing to interrupt the flow of the Beautiful Game in order to be more just? In essence, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”


  • Microchips (3D accelerometers and such) coupled with goal post sensors could easily end all doubt about a ball crossing the line in high profile games.
  • A fifth official watching real-time replays (just as we do) could transmit near-instant verdicts on dives/handballs/ deflections and off-sides to the field refs so that calls are more accurate than ever.


  • The game could well lose a significant amount of fluidity and, on occasion, grind to a complete halt in order to consult the “booth” as in the NFL.
  • No matter how much better it becomes there will still always be controversy.

Basically it comes down to what we value more; A bit more justice (in some cases) or the fluidity of the match we currently enjoy.

I, for one, would like to see a bit more technical consideration for especially high profile games but only insofar as it does not overly slow the pace of the match. Then again, I can imagine all sorts of compromises/schemes/rule-changes etc. that could serve the game as well.

What changes does the game need? Or perhaps we should just leave well-enough alone?

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