Is there a need for meta-evaluation at the World Cup?

Sent off ... Brazils Kaka walks off as Ivory Coasts Abdelkader Keita holds his face after a push in the chest. Photo: Reuters

Watching games at the FIFA World Cup, I’ve wondered whether there might be a need for some transparent meta-evaluation of referee decisions. [Conflict of interest warning – Australian commentator].

Picture caption: Sent off … Brazil’s Kaka walks off as Ivory Coasts Abdelkader Keita holds his face after a push in the chest. Photo: Reuters

In other sports, such as tennis and cricket, umpiring decisions about whether a ball or a batter are ‘in’ or ‘out’ are often delayed or overturned with additional information from video replays of incidents. In the Australian football code (Australian rules), umpires’ reports that cause players to miss subsequent games are reviewed by a tribunal, with the benefit of evidence from witnesses and video, before the sentence is enacted.

Yet the FIFA World Cup, which has such resources spent on it, seems to have none of these safeguards. And in a such a low-scoring sport, refereeing decisions can and do change the outcome of games. So why is there no meta-evaluation of referee decisions?

Controversial refereeing decisions this World Cup have included fouls and handling the ball.


Kaka was dismissed for a second yellow card in the final minutes for pushing Abdelkader Keita, but the Ivorian wildly exaggerated the impact of the shove by falling to the ground clutching his head.

[Sydney Morning Herald]

Handling the ball

Harry Kewell (Australia)

Did Harry Kewell deliberately handle the ball to prevent a goal, earning a red card and immediate dismissal? Or was he trying to block with his chest, using the technique photographed in practice?

Luis Fabiano (Brazil)

Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson felt the second yellow card against Kaka was warranted and said the Brazilians should not complain after there was more than a hint of handball in Luis Fabiano’s second goal.”I heard Brazil complain a lot, but I don’t think they should, it is extra difficult when Fabiano is allowed to use his hands. It was not just once, it was twice,” said the Swede.

Fabiano admitted he handled the ball, but argued that the element of doubt just made his goal more beautiful.

“Well, that is true, it seems as though the ball hit my hand and the second time it hit my shoulder,” he said.

“But to make the goal more beautiful there needed to be a bit of doubt.”

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