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Study Shows Fans Demand Instant Replay for World Cup Games
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Study Shows Fans Demand Instant Replay for World Cup Games

A recent global Nielsen survey as well as online fan buzz strongly supports the urgent introduction of instant video replays during World Cup matches.

After a weekend of two “blown” calls by referees in World Cup matches, Nielsen found that two out of three respondents (65 percent) to Nielsen’s online survey of 55 countries were in favor of a change. Only about one in 10 people globally said the ban on the use of video replays should stay, and the others didn’t mind either way.

England and Mexico were both forced out of the World Cup on Sunday in games with controversial refereeing decisions. Access to video replays of the disputed plays would have led to different decisions being made on the field.

With emotional fans around the globe having their say, research from NM Incite, a Nielsen McKinsey Company, shows that English-language online discussion around video replays increased dramatically after contentious issues on field. On the day the USA’s last minute would-be winning goal against Slovenia was disallowed, buzz levels about the controversy were 66 times higher than the average daily levels over the preceding week.

In the following few days, buzz levels remained significantly higher than before the incident. The day of the controversial decisions in both the England and Mexico matches saw online discussion about video replays increase eleven-fold, compared to the average daily level after the USA controversy.

So-called “video refs” are currently banned in World Cup play, yet people in all regions of the world think the introduction of video replays is a good idea, with agreement the strongest in Latin America, where 79 percent of consumers favor a change in the rules.

Europeans also strongly favor (72 percent) a change, with only 10 percent in disagreement.  In the Middle East and Africa, 63 percent support the idea, while in Asia-Pacific the figure is 61 percent.

Respondents in North America were the least enthusiastic, with just 56 percent agreeing – but this region also had the highest proportion of “don’t knows” (36 percent).

The issue of technology assistance for referees was first rekindled during the World Cup qualifiers when French captain Thierry Henry scored a winning goal to send France to the finals in South Africa at the expense of Ireland. Television replays clearly showed Henry helping the ball over the Irish goal line with his hand. Sunday’s England-Germany and Mexico-Argentina games added fuel to the debate.

Another long-remembered hand-ball goal missed by the referee was Argentina’s Diego Maradona and his infamous “hand of God” strike against England in the World Cup finals in 1986.  And the question of whether Geoff Hurst’s goal in the 1966 World Cup final really did cross the line is still debated in both England and Germany. Video replays are widely used in international cricket, rugby and tennis matches.

The Nielsen survey found one of the country’s most in favor of video assistance for refs was – perhaps not surprisingly – Ireland, where 84 percent of people said it was a good idea. The same percentage was found in South Africa.  The next highest was Poland (82 percent), followed by France, United Arab Emirates and Brazil (all 81percent).

In April, Nielsen published responses to the question posed in a global survey: Should referees be allowed to use television replays to make decisions during football (soccer) matches? Some 68% of Britons sad “yes”; 11% said “no” and 21% had no opinion. Americans came in with 9% “no”; 55% “yes” and 36% “undecided.” Mexicans felt strongly, with 77% answering “yes”; 12% “no” and 11% “undecided.” It will be interesting to see whether there will be any change to the “no” and “undecided” comments – and whether a higher percentage of German fans (73% said “yes”) will side with the call for replays.

However, even while the vast majority of people want to introduce modern technology into the beautiful game, there was a mixed response on whether a good, old-fashioned penalty shoot-out was still the fairest way to decide drawn games.

Globally, 35 percent of respondents supported the use of penalties to decide the winners of tied games. Twenty-five percent said they were unfair and 40 percent were undecided.

Support for penalties was highest in the Middle East and Africa (43 percent.) In Latin America it was 42 percent. Next was the Asia-Pacific region (38 percent,) while the lowest percentage was in Europe (36 percent).

Most opposition – countries where people say penalties are not a fair way to decide a game – is found in Poland (56 percent), Italy (50 percent), Mexico (46 percent), Netherlands (43 percent) and Croatia (43 percent.)