Instant Replay. Is Soccer Next?

Instant ReplayWhen Major League Baseball decided to adopt instant replay earlier this year, it seemed as if the technology now had a presence in every major American sport. However, Major League Soccer has avoided its use, primarily because it’s never been called upon…until now. It’s well known that professional soccer is far more popular in the rest of the world than in the States, so leave it the enormously influential English Premier League to advocate the technology. Jorge Moran of examines the possible repercussions of this decision:

A seldom discussed yet more worrying aspect of the possible introduction of video evidence is that it would splinter the sport into two factions: the football practiced by those clubs and countries that can afford to have the technology installed and maintained, and the football of those that can’t.

HawkEye, the camera-based goal-line technology that the Premier League tested but was unable to receive FIFA approval to use, would cost a reported $438,000 to install per stadium. Only a very small handful of national federations and leagues would be able to afford that, and perhaps only at the top flight level.

Who’s to say that a country’s lower leagues aren’t worthy enough to receive the same sort of sporting justice that video evidence would bring to the upper tier? Teams from the lower divisions may be less profitable, but they are just as important to their supporters.

Moran makes an interesting case. What binds soccer on a global level is that the game’s simplistic rules are relatively the same in every league. While a third world country may not be able to afford the cameras, implementing instant replay in a wealthier nation tilts this equilibrium. Hopefully a more cost-conscious system will arise.

If some leagues do side with the technology, I hope it’s used on a smaller scale, as with MLB. Many people were upset when the ATP and WTA started using instant replay during tennis matches. However, players are given a limited number of “disputes” per game. Like tennis, soccer is popular on a global level. If instant replay creeps its way into the game, I hope it’s used both sparingly and wisely.

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