Too much officiating in soccer

By

I subscribe to the NFL Sunday Ticket and I found the free kick by David Beckham in today's England — Ecuador match right up there with the most artistic 70 yard TD pass.  To me what is un American about soccer isn't the low scoring. It's the often arbitrary officiating.   In a way not found in high scoring sports like football and basketball, or in baseball where officiating is a team effort,  in soccer the referee can easily become as much a part of the story as the players. 

Almost every World Cup has its stories about games that were decided by the officiating and this year is no different.  Witness how all the momentum left the American team with the penalty kick that allowed Ghana to tie the game.  Consider also how if the referee deems an offense worthy of a red card, that player's team has to play the rest of the match a man short.  This is one of the most draconian penalties in all of sports and it is made by one man without review.  The official closest to the play doesn't huddle with his fellows to see if it also looked flagrant from their angle, to consider the ramifications to the rest of the game or even to surreptitiously watch the replay on the stadium's scoreboard. The referee pulls out the red card and that team is now a player short for the rest of the match.  As those who watched the United States play Italy learned, scoring a goal while playing a man short is all but unprecedented in World Cup soccer.

The 2006 World Cup has been marred by far too many dubious yellow cards, often issued early in the game, without prior warning, for merely aggressive but not un—sportsmanlike conduct. I even saw one for what has turned out on the replay to have been incidental contact and not a foul at all.

Yellow cards are meant to be warnings, but also have power to effect the outcome.  Since receiving a second yellow card in a game has the same effect as a red card, when a player draws a yellow card early in the game, his play is often subdued for the remainder of the match.  Unnecessary yellow cards are particularly depressing in the World Cup matches, because any player who draws two yellow cards during any of the three games in Round One play has to sit out the next game. This meant teams who were assured of advancing after game two had the incentive to bench star players with one yellow card in game three to assure their availability for Round Two, where it is win or go home.   Teams trying hard to advance in game three also had to worry that a victory would turn out phryicc because they would be entering Round Two deprived of their best players. Having to benching star players in the big game because of fairly minor infractions is not something most Americans would find fan friendly.

As I have watched this World Cup I have become increasingly unhappy over the balance between the efforts of the athletes and the power of the officials.  Maybe that is the biggest difference between Americans and the rest of the world.  We just can't get all that excited about something where the outcome is so much in the hands of the officials.

Rosslyn Smith   6 26 06

I subscribe to the NFL Sunday Ticket and I found the free kick by David Beckham in today's England — Ecuador match right up there with the most artistic 70 yard TD pass.  To me what is un American about soccer isn't the low scoring. It's the often arbitrary officiating.   In a way not found in high scoring sports like football and basketball, or in baseball where officiating is a team effort,  in soccer the referee can easily become as much a part of the story as the players. 

Almost every World Cup has its stories about games that were decided by the officiating and this year is no different.  Witness how all the momentum left the American team with the penalty kick that allowed Ghana to tie the game.  Consider also how if the referee deems an offense worthy of a red card, that player's team has to play the rest of the match a man short.  This is one of the most draconian penalties in all of sports and it is made by one man without review.  The official closest to the play doesn't huddle with his fellows to see if it also looked flagrant from their angle, to consider the ramifications to the rest of the game or even to surreptitiously watch the replay on the stadium's scoreboard. The referee pulls out the red card and that team is now a player short for the rest of the match.  As those who watched the United States play Italy learned, scoring a goal while playing a man short is all but unprecedented in World Cup soccer.

The 2006 World Cup has been marred by far too many dubious yellow cards, often issued early in the game, without prior warning, for merely aggressive but not un—sportsmanlike conduct. I even saw one for what has turned out on the replay to have been incidental contact and not a foul at all.

Yellow cards are meant to be warnings, but also have power to effect the outcome.  Since receiving a second yellow card in a game has the same effect as a red card, when a player draws a yellow card early in the game, his play is often subdued for the remainder of the match.  Unnecessary yellow cards are particularly depressing in the World Cup matches, because any player who draws two yellow cards during any of the three games in Round One play has to sit out the next game. This meant teams who were assured of advancing after game two had the incentive to bench star players with one yellow card in game three to assure their availability for Round Two, where it is win or go home.   Teams trying hard to advance in game three also had to worry that a victory would turn out phryicc because they would be entering Round Two deprived of their best players. Having to benching star players in the big game because of fairly minor infractions is not something most Americans would find fan friendly.

As I have watched this World Cup I have become increasingly unhappy over the balance between the efforts of the athletes and the power of the officials.  Maybe that is the biggest difference between Americans and the rest of the world.  We just can't get all that excited about something where the outcome is so much in the hands of the officials.

Rosslyn Smith   6 26 06