On Wednesday, the Major Arena Soccer League announced it would implement Video Replay for the Ron Newman Cup playoffs, which begin tonight with three games.
“I feel it is in the best interest to have the outcome of each game be fair and equitable,” said MASL Commissioner Joshua Schaub. “We’ve been researching this issue for quite some time and after a successful test on a limited basis, we feel we have a good system to launch for this year’s playoffs.”
The replay “system” will use existing technology, which includes the MASLtv YouTube webcast and the arena’s video feed, where applicable. As a further safeguard, the MASL assigns referees from a select list to officiate playoff games. Maybe most essential, the league will have goal judges in place once again for the playoffs.
The league does not mandate the use of goal judges during the season, though some teams like Ontario and San Diego use them to activate the goal lamp when a goal is scored. There were a handful of instances this year where a team appeared to score a goal, but the referees on the field didn’t see the ball cross the line or weren’t positioned optimally to see the shot.
In addition there were a few times where a player struck another player above the shoulders and were penalized, but the league determined later that the contact should have warranted a red card. This would now fall under the scope of things that officials can review during the game.
The league tested the system during the last week of the regular season and, according to Head of MASL Officials Ryan Cigich, there were five reviews during those games.
If there is suspicion that a goal might have been scored, the officials can stop play once the defending team gains possession of the ball, similar to how a delayed penalty would be applied.
While goals are reviewable, penalty kicks and shootouts are not. As an example, the game-winning penalty kick for a handball call that appeared on replay to be incorrect in the Milwaukee Wave and St. Louis Ambush game on January 28, would not be reviewable, but the apparent handball by Adriano Dos Santos that tied Game 2 of last year’s Newman Cup Finals, would be.
It is fairly common for players to ask a referee to review a foul or penalty call. You can often see players gesturing toward the jumbotron, but referees are not allowed to consult replay to overturn a foul or a penalty call, and that will still be true during the playoffs, but it may embolden players to lobby harder for another look at the replay. “They may but that shouldn’t come into play,” says Cigich. “The referees are the ones who must have a strong sense that a clear and obvious error has been made.”
While judgment calls will still be made in real time, some errors might get fixed. One example was a February 25 game in El Paso. The Kansas City Comets were called for a foul and the Coyotes set the ball down for the free kick several feet away from where the foul had occurred, which led to a fast break that resulted in the winning goal in sudden death overtime. “That scenario would fall under a major rules error as the ball was nowhere close to the 3’ radius for a free kick,” said Cigich.
The new rules are certain to create another storyline to follow in what are sure to be an intense and competitive chase for the Ron Newman Cup.