Tuesday, June 19, 2012

what's the point of the goal-line referee? re: ukraine-england

More thoughts to come as an overall reaction to the conclusion of the group stage of Euro 2012. But for now, the question that should be on everyone's mind (who just watched the final matches in group D): how did the goal-line referee miss that ball going over the line? I'd use this example as more support for my idea that the goal-line referee is essentially a giant misuse of precious refereeing resources. If there are extra referees in a football match, they should help call offsides, since these calls are missed much more often and, though less tangibly so, have a much bigger impact on the final outcome of matches. In addition, as we see here, even having a goal-line referee doesn't guarantee that goal-line calls will even be made correctly! Several talking points here.

First off, the obvious: England fans will be quick to point out that the play should have been ruled offside much earlier on. So maybe it's not such an unjust outcome that it wasn't ruled a goal. Fine. That doesn't interest me so much right now.

More interestingly, I wonder about two things: 1) the positioning of the goal-line referee, (is he really standing in the best position to judge whether the ball has crossed the line? NO) and 2) the training or instructions given to the goal-line referee (was he trained to stand where he was standing? Lamentably, probably. Was he directed as to how certain he should be that a goal has been scored in making the call for a goal? Probably not?)

For the first point. You'll notice if you watch this video or any other that shows the play in question (the link will probably be removed for copyright by now), that the goal line referee is standing right on the goal line, with his line of sight along it. Now some basic trigonometry should enough to convince you that, since the goalpost has finite thickness, standing here will not allow the referee to clearly see the entirety of the ball crossing the line even if it has, because his view of the ball is partially obstructed by the goalpost. In addition, because in order for a goal to be scored the ball has to cross the goal post from his line of sight, there will necessarily be a discontinuity in his view of the ball. Now he sees it, now he doesn't, as it crosses the goal line. This means, even when the ball goes in the goal, it's harder to follow from this view.

So where's a better place to stand? Closer to the fucking goal, and slightly behind the goal line, to have a better view of the ball. Standing right next to goalpost, slightly behind it, would allow the referee to rely on depth perception, instead of merely using line of sight, to see when the ball has crossed the line. This strikes me as a much better system.

As for the second point, how certain should the goal line ref be that a goal has been scored? Certainly 100% is too high a burden. I'd assume that if he was given any instruction by FIFA, it would be of the "beyond a reasonable doubt" variety, but more likely he was left to decide for himself. But of course, any close call, especially one that happens on the goal line so quickly, comes with a large degree of uncertainty. The best criterion to use in this case is a 50/50 judgment. As long as the goal line referee, who by assumption, is the best positioned to make the call, believes there is above a 50% chance that a goal has been scored, he should call a goal. My hunch is that the referee in this case maybe thought it was a goal, but wasn't sure, so refrained from calling it. What a shame! Would've made for a fine finish.

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