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by Paul Kiser
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Paul Kiser

Up until today the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (better known as FIFA) believed in fate, not fair play. In FIFA soccer (better known as football) four referees are charged with monitoring non-stop activity on a ‘pitch’ that is a larger field than the USA’s National Football League (better known as the NFL) The position of FIFA has been that mistakes have been ‘part of the game,’ but today they announced that they would study the problem….which begs the question, do they know what the problem is?

Compare FIFA officiating to that of the NFL where seven referees focus on plays that take place in short time segments of action (a typical play takes 15-seconds or less.) In addition, each play is usually contained in a small area of the field. The result is that NFL referees are so reliable that they rarely make a mistake…but if they do they are backed up by instant replay.

Occasionally, the losing team will say that an NFL referee cost them the game, but in reality few have a legitimate argument to base the outcome on anything other than the players on the field and the leadership on the sideline. Officiating in the NFL creates an environment of fair play for both teams, that’s the sole reason for their existence.

FIFA's View of Sports Officiating

In South Africa the 2010 FIFA World Cup is being played and not only are the referee’s making mistakes, they are determining the outcomes. But up until today, FIFA liked it that way. Somehow the sense of fair play is optional under FIFA officiating and the skills and dedication of the players is secondary to keeping the matches subject to the whims and errors of the non-players on the field. The situation is so bad that this year’s winner of the World Cup will likely owe a debt of gratitude to some FIFA ref that helped them win a game in the ‘knockout’ rounds. No team can fully claim credit of superior gamesmanship because of the excessive, gross errors made by the referees. I do not fault the referees, because four people cannot possibly track all the action on the field for 93 continuous minutes (90 minutes? Who are they kidding?) In FIFA, foul play reigns supreme because of a lack of regulation.

A Lesson For Business
This is a good lesson for those who preach that less regulation is good for business. We have seen what happens when government is stripped back to allow business to do as they will to their customers and the market. Too little regulation leads to foul play. It always has, always does, and always will. Greed is bad, but that is what reigns supreme in unregulated business. Business ethics become an unacceptable expense in unregulated business. Good business people are forced to abandon their ethics or get out of the industry in unregulated business environment because of their competitors who sacrifice fair play in order to win at all costs. Whether it is an exploding oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, a lead-based paint on a child’s toy, or unsustainable lending practices that will eventually destroy an economy, the cause is a lack of government oversight.

Whenever I say this to one of my conservative acquaintances they immediately quote me some instance that they heard from some source of an example of government abusing power. Yes, there are bad inspectors and absurd rules and laws that increase the cost of doing business, but I’ll take an occasional problem with government oversight to the perversion that unethical business people always devolve into when government is not there to protect us from greed. Regulated business is fair play for all and that’s what has made American business great.

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