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FIFA Tests Referee Microphones at The Club World Cup

FIFA Offside microphone call

Argentine referee Patricio Loustau checks the VAR and disallows a goal by Brazil's Internacional Estevao during the Copa Sudamericana football tournament round of sixteen first leg match between Chile's Colo Colo and Brazil's Internacional at the Monumental David Arellano stadium in Santiago on June 28, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER TORRES / AFP)

Another potential refereeing revolution in football is being tested at the current Club World Cup, with spectators hearing officials defend their choices after VAR checks.

Football referees are only now being tested with microphones attached, just as the sport is still getting used to video assistant referees and semi-automated offside technology. Referees with microphones are nothing new in other sports like the NFL.

Andres Matonte, a referee from Uruguay, was able to clearly explain why he gave Real Madrid a late penalty during the Spanish club’s 4-1 victory against Al Ahly in the semifinal in Rabat on Wednesday after coming across to evaluate a potential foul in the box.

Matonte yelled to the crowd, “Penalty decision, foul by number 17,” after seeing Amr El Solia of Al Ahly challenge Real forward Vinicius Junior. Then, Luka Modric’s kick was stopped.

Although Matonte’s conversations with the video assistant referee were kept private, the audience cheered when he made a brief announcement over the stadium’s loudspeakers. The majority of spectators were rooting for the European champions at the time.

The trial was approved last month by the International Football Association Board, the governing body of the sport, with English FA chief executive Mark Bullingham, a board member, stating that it was “essential in terms of transparency.”

FIFA is thinking about doing further trials at the Under-20 World Cup, which will be held in Indonesia in May and June.

The method might be approved for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July and August if it is proven successful.

Pierluigi Collina, the head of FIFA’s referees committee, expressed his optimism that the decision will be beneficial to the audience.

“Sure, it might not be ideal, but we’re just getting started, and this is the first time we’re doing it… but I’m sure that things will work out well.”

Too Many Modifications

During the tournament’s inaugural match between Al Ahly and Auckland City, China’s Ma Ning became the first official to explain his choices to the audience.

After coming over to look at a potential penalty for Auckland’s Adam Mitchell’s challenge on Taher Mohamed, he decided to give a free kick just outside the box and send the defender off for obstructing a clear chance to score.

To make the referee’s judgment following a VAR intervention more intelligible (for) the stadium or broadcast audience, we decided to conduct this trial, Collina continued.

I must admit that there are other experiences in other sports, most notably the NFL in American football, which has been doing it for a while. The officials appear to be quite at ease with this.

The desire to incorporate ever-increasing amounts of technology into sports, however, may not be well received by everyone, especially given that VAR, which was first tested at the 2016 Club World Cup, continues to be a source of controversy, the very thing its introduction was intended to do away with.

The only changes in the last ten years, according to Eduardo Iturralde, a former Spanish referee who oversaw more La Liga games than any other official and who currently works as a radio analyst in Spain, were to the regulations and how they were interpreted.

What the audience needs from VAR rulings is greater uniformity, so that something that is called a foul in Germany is likewise called a foul in Spain. They seek explanation.

“If you have to explain something, it often signifies that the numerous rule changes have confused observers.

Football doesn’t need to imitate the NFL, in my opinion. Both the sports and the cultures differ.

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