Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Eyes Outside

    Some stories from outside the footballing world – and one from within – that could help change the at times ancient mindset of the governing bodies.

The NHL’s Research & Development Camp

    For the second straight year – following a trial event in 2005 – the NHL held their R&D camp just outside of Toronto. Featuring 36 of the top rated prospects the league set about testing several possible rule and technological changes with an eye towards improving the game.

    Some of the more soccer applicable tests included the usage of high definition net cams to assist in video replay calls. To further improve the accuracy of such decisions a green verification line was added behind the goal-line. The concept being that should any part of the puck – or for football purposes, ball - touch the slightest bit of that line the review panel would know that it was in fact a goal. In some review circumstances the puck can be obscured by players involved in the action. This additional measurement tool takes the decision making process one step closer to being accurate.

    Another technological implication being tested involved the use of clear plastic viewing windows at both the sides and top of the goal - in lieu of the standard white mesh netting - to make the spotting of the puck a little bit easier. Also allowing the overhead cameras a better chance of being useful in video review applications.

    Other rule changes – such as hybrid icing and the legalization of hand passes in all zones – and technological adaptations – such as the curved glass at the end stanchions to avoid injuries such as the terrible vertebrae fracture and severe concussion suffered by Max Pacioretty – were also experimented with to varying degrees of success.

    Would having a clear plastic side-panel help the assistant referee spot a ball that just bounced over the line? Would a second verification goal-line help decide whether a ball broke the plane of the net? These are ideas worth testing at least.

USSF Referee Week in Review

    Too often a controversial decision becomes crucial to the outcome of a match.  Fans, players, and managers are left with little to no rationale as to how the conclusion was arrived upon. Many have pondered why it is that the referee or his superior could not come and explain these decisions, in the process verifying their veracity.

    MLS and the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) have implemented over the last few years a system to enlighten the fans – and referee’s nationwide – on the nature of controversial decisions.

    Cleverly dressed as a teaching tool for referee’s in training, each week a short video review segment is made available via the USSF website – it can be subscribed to via iTunes as well – where former referee Michael Kennedy uses match clips from the week’s action to highlight whether a referee made the proper decision, whether the procedure was handled properly, or sometimes just to draw attention to a particularly difficult segment of the job.

    Though often the videos affirm a suspect decision or applaud a referee for his handling of a difficult situation, occasionally they do admit to a blown call. A little more information for the public and aspiring referee’s to digest and learn from. It offers a touch of consolation for the fan wronged and the slightest admission of culpability on behalf of the officials.  Though of limited consequence there is a comfort to be had in the knowledge that there is a process of refining game management.

    Such a small and simple gesture to address one of the most basic tenants of the controversy that at times leads to suspicions of match-fixing. Transparency and aspiration should be core principles of sport; the week in review is a step in the right direction.

The High Standards of CFL Refereeing

    The Canadian Football League (American Gridiron, with some minor rule and physical differences) announced on Monday that a referee (side judge) who made a controversial (bad) call in the Winnipeg-Montreal game in this weekend’s round of fixtures was relieved of his duties.   

    It was neither the first time the league have decided to move on an official, nor was the decision made as a result of a single bad call, but it speaks to the need for standards, especially in something as crucial as officiating. The players train for the entire lives to reach a certain level of performance, their existence in the business is at times extremely cut-throat.  It is only fitting that the refereeing be held to similar standards.

    This is not a call for officials to be canned for each and every bad decision they make, but if they would at least be held accountable the game could move forward. If the myth of infallibility is abandoned in time there will be a recognition that as humans the demands of the job are physically impossible, and that outside assistance is of benefit and inevitable.

    Three stories from outside the realm of European football that if heeded could improve the management and culture of the game. In these shadowy days of match fixing and controversy – though themselves not new threats – and in the age of technology that currently dominates the everyday, some vision beyond the nineteenth century roots of the game is overdue.

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