Instant replay? Some World Cup refs ready to embrace technology

Instant replay isn't allowed in the World Cup now, but some refs are open to it down the road.

Britain's World Cup soccer referee Howard Webb addresses the media after a training session in East-Lynn, Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. FIFA president Sepp Blatter's apology to England and Mexico for bad refereeing at the soccer World Cup is too little, too late. And the FIFA president's sharp U-turn on the possible use of technology to aid referees in football needs to be taken with a large dose of salt.

After a FIFA U-turn Tuesday morning, at least one World Cup referee is ready to embrace goal-line technology.

English referee Howard Webb, who officiated last month's Champions League final, said he would be open to technological aids if they help referees get the calls right.

"I'm open minded about anything that makes us more credible as match officials," Webb said at the latest World Cup referees' open day. "Whatever tools I am given I will use them to the best of my ability, and I will use all the experience I have to try to come to the correct decisions."

Although FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in March that he does not want non-human intervention in football, he apologized to both England and Mexico on Tuesday for refereeing blunders that worked against both teams.

He also announced that there would be a special meeting of the game's rule-making body next month.

"I will just watch this space with interest and see where it goes," Webb said. "We'll see what comes along."

Jose-Maria Garcia-Aranda, FIFA's head of refereeing, wouldn't be drawn into the debate, leaving the decision to The International Football Association Board.

"My duty and responsibility is not to talk or discuss about the use of technology," Garcia-Aranda said. "My duty and responsibility — and the referees' responsibility — is to perform as well as possible ... we are working here to improve the referees' performances."

England was denied a goal against Germany on Sunday when Frank Lampard's shot bounced off the crossbar and over the goal line. If the goal had been given by Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, England would have equalized at 2-2 in the 38th minute. Germany won the match 4-1.

Later that day, Argentina's first goal in a 3-1 win over Mexico was scored by Carlos Tevez from an offside position but was still allowed by Italian referee Roberto Rosetti.

Rosetti and Larrionda skipped the referees' open day because "they made a personal decision not to be here," Garcia-Aranda said.

The IFAB has previously considered two options to help referees and linesmen — a ball with a microchip and the camera-based Hawk-Eye replay system used in tennis — and rejected them on principle, not because of any faults in their systems.

"I've got no personal view," Webb said. "I can't do anything about it because I'm not part of the decision-making process. I have to abide by whatever tool is given to me.

"I'm a strong believer that football in its current form is a wonderful spectacle, a really beautiful game."

Tennis, cricket and baseball are among the sports that use video replays to help officials get decisions right.

"We try to learn good practice from them," Webb said. "But we have to consider that we are dealing in different sports. Football is uniquely fluid in the way that it is played, and we need to take care that we don't change that fact. We need to protect the basic way the game is played."

FIFA has made psychologists available to referees at the World Cup to help them deal with the strain, and unwelcome media attention, from any disputed decisions.

"We have two psychologists who are at the disposition of the referees so they are always available," said FIFA's Werner Helsen, who helps to prepare referees for matches. "On the other hand, it is really important for the competence of referees to deal with errors.

"They wouldn't arrive at the World Cup if they didn't know how to deal with mistakes in the right way. My definition of experience is the capacity to learn from mistakes."

Helsen has been helping Larrionda deal with having missed Lampard's goal.

"Unfortunately it happens," Helsen said. "He is OK. He is not here, but he learns to deal with it and will continue (at the World Cup)."

RELATED: Blog: World Cup referees debacle forces FIFA's Sepp Blatter to reopen debate on technology

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