Major League Soccer has told FIFA that it’s interested in becoming the first pro soccer league to experiment with a video-replay system that would allow coaches to challenge referee decisions, league commissioner Don Garber told SI.com in an interview on Thursday.
Earlier this week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter renewed his support of a video challenge system, calling for it to be tested in 2015 in one of the world’s domestic leagues and/or the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Blatter said coaches would have the right to challenge a refereeing decision once or twice per half, but only when the game is stopped.
Once the challenge is made, Blatter said, the referee and the coach would watch the replay on a nearby monitor, whereupon the referee would uphold or change the decision.
Garber called Blatter’s endorsement of video challenges “music to my ears,” adding: “I would love to be able to do that. [MLS deputy commissioner] Mark Abbott was out in Zurich at a meeting last week [at FIFA headquarters] and let folks in Zurich know that we’d be happy to work with them to be that league. I don’t know what their plans are to experiment with that, but I believe the time has come for there to be a mechanism so that games are not determined by [referee calls] that are not right.”
Earlier this year, Blatter changed his mind and decided to support video challenges, not least because he has observed the so-far successful introduction of goal-line technology at World Cup 2014 and in the English Premier League.
MLS initially expressed an interest in goal-line technology, but the league later said it was too expensive for the league to implement right now. It remains to be seen how much it would cost to introduce video challenges, though it would presumably be less expensive than GLT.
Proponents of video challenges in soccer argue that it will help get calls right in a sport where one referee decision can change the game. Opponents counter that it would slow down the game and provide less clear-cut clarity than you might expect.
Any change would require agreement from the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which serves as the guardian of the game’s rules.