Ethics and the FIFA World Cup; An Opinion Piece

“Ethics and the FIFA World Cup; An Opinion Piece”

By: Bob Sumpter, NISOA, Florida

In watching the current 2010 FIFA World Cup games on television, one is reminded that there is still much work to be done about encouraging and ensuring ethical conduct among the players and other participants in the competition. This is a problem that has been observed in world-cup level qualifications and competitions over the course of years, and the impact of not being handled has resulted (sadly) in teams who should have won vital games being eliminated from any further competition, while the team guilty of a serious lack of ethics went on in the competition instead, replacing the offended team who unjustly lost.

As one example, this was seen in the game on July 2, 2010, between Uruguay and Ghana, where at the end of almost 120 minutes a shot on goal by Ghana was on its way into the opponent’s goal for what should have been the winning goal. The would-be winning goal was stopped by a Uruguay player (Suarez) on the goal line and punched out by hand.

The Referee correctly ejected the Uruguay player, and awarded a penalty kick to Ghana. The kick by Ghana was missed, and in the following “Kicks From The Penalty Kick Mark” to determine a winner, Uruguay (the offending team) won the game and the opportunity to continue on into the continuing rounds of World Cup play.

This outcome allowed Uruguay to win the game after a blatantly unethical act by a player who deliberately violated the rules in overturn the results of a game.

The offending players Suarez, was cheered by the fans and apparently by his own teammates in approval of his actions. (I assume the coach also might have approved.)

It seems somehow inappropriate that the disciplinary power of the Referee was limited to the ejection/disqualification of the guilty player (Suarez)and the penalty kick that was awarded. It also seems unfair that in the follow-up disciplinary action of the World Cup authorities (i.e., FIFA), there was no corrective action taken in terms of the game result.

Not too many years ago, the NFHS Soccer Rules, in effect, specified that if a ball was stopped by a defender “illegally” from entering the goal, and the Referee judged that a goal would undoubtedly result if not for the foul play, then a goal was to be awarded. (That rules provision is no longer part of the NFHS Soccer Rules.) However, that seems a straightforward way to overcome the specific act described above.

Perhaps it is time for those responsible for the rules and governance of the game world-wide to carefully reconsider what they wish the game to represent in terms of individual and team ethics, fairness, and acceptable conduct by all of the participants.

In any case, Referees – no matter what soccer competition they are part of – should remember the sad possibilities (i.e., unintended consequences) that may result if their disciplinary powers are not firmly and fairly invoked during every game refereed. This is the only contribution to fair play that we can make under the current construct and with the present state of the rules as they stand under all rules-making bodies. While this will not right the periodic occurrence of those willing to “win at all costs”, strong refereeing should help to keep these unfortunate instances to a minimum while those responsible for the world game consider taking their responsibilities more seriously. Perhaps that way some decent code of ethics can prevail in the world game.