Monday, March 2, 2009

Soccer Stupidity

Look, I didn't see the NCS 3A high school girls' soccer championship game between San Ramon Valley and Foothill the other night.

Don't even have a dog in that particular fight.

You can read about the controversial finish here if you like (favored Foothill lost 4-3). But all you really need to know for purposes of this discussion is one fact: nobody knew when the game would end.

Well, more precisely, none of the players, coaches, or spectators knew. That's because of the ridiculous soccer custom of keeping the official game clock in the referee's pocket.

It's not just at the high school level, either. That great big electronic clock on the scoreboard really means nothing, even at the World Cup or the Olympics. The officials are empowered to add "stoppage time" at the end of the game to make up for time considered to have been wasted during substitutions, injuries, etc., and only the referee knows when the match will end.

Note that "stoppage time" is only added at the end of the game, but not at the end of the first half--even though there are certainly "stoppage" incidents in both halves.

Many soccer "purists" will lift their heads out of the sand just long enough to argue that the system works just fine. They're mistaken. It's in everyone's interest to know exactly when the game's going to end. The current system not only leaves too much to guesswork, it also opens the possibility of a referee shading the game toward one team or the other.

Join the 21st century, soccer. "Transparency" is a big word these days in government and financial circles. Apply it to your sport.

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