UEFA Euro 2012: With Missed Offside and Goal, Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?
Soccer refereeing has long relied on just three on-field officials—a referee and two assistants, one on each side line. For decades, this structure, though peppered with flaws, appeared to keep the peace.
In 2010, and in response to technology confirming a slew of missed calls at or near the goal line, the UEFA Executive Committee approved a proposal to add two assistant referees to either goal line, effectively giving the sport two goal judges authorized to rule handballs, penalties and other issues of play involving the scoring of a goal (via Goal.com).
Since the two-year trial was adopted following UEFA's proposal to FIFA, five on-field officials (one referee and four assistants) have become a welcome sight on European football pitches, with the fourth and fifth goal officials added to the 2012 UEFA Euros qualifying phase and final tournament.
Yet, in opting for additional on-field officials at the expense of incorporating instant replay technology, UEFA has maintained the status quo of the human element, a fate that significantly factored into play during Tuesday's England-Ukraine Group D match.
With England at a one goal advantage and the Ukraine needing a win to remain alive in Euro 2012 tournament play, the Ukraine found themselves with an opportunity to equalize in the 62nd minute. At 61:40, an attempted score appeared to fully cross the goal line before being kicked out by English defender John Terry.
Had goal opportunities been subject to instant replay review, there is little doubt video evidence would have overturned this call. Nonetheless, the goal line official positioned several yards from the near post ruled the ball never fully crossed the goal line, preserving England's 1-0 lead.
Conversely, the sideline assistant referee failed to call a proper offside against Ukraine several seconds earlier, raising the total to two missed calls on the attack, one adversely affecting either squad.
In this case, the fact of the uncalled offside infraction may just make that missed goal call a little easier to swallow for the Ukraine, while England may point to the earlier no-call as evidence that two wrongs may indeed make a right.
As for UEFA, FIFA and other governing bodies looking to get the call right, perhaps England-Ukraine is yet another nail in the proverbial coffin in keeping overt video technology out of the world's game.
In 2010, the association opted to fix the problem by adding a fourth and fifth referee.
In 2012, given evidence of the ineffectiveness of those two added goal judges, how will football solve the quandary of human error in its officiating mechanics?
Perhaps it is time to go the way of baseball, basketball, football and hockey in authorizing certain plays, such as scoring chances, to undergo instant replay analysis and review.
After all, isn't it all about getting the call right?
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.
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