Yellow cards. I saw a lot of them over the past few days of watching World Cup Soccer (football to any of you out there not from the barbarian lands of NA), and you know what? They looked like they worked pretty well. The odd player kind of shoved his chest at the ref in response, but since the ref can reach into his pocket and pull out a red card if the athlete is too belligerent, the whining goes only so far. It looked to me as though the yellow card, when used effectively, is a relatively painless way to mete out a reprimand without doing harm to the athlete unless he persists in his misdemeanours. 

I have never personally heard of anyone getting a yellow card in FEI competition, even though yellow cards exist – and are meant to be used in the same spirit as those in soccer. You know what I think the problem is? Our stewards and judges are not – for the most part, anyway – burly fit dudes like those refs. Also, when you have a group of stewards or a jury of judges, there is always the risk that by suggesting a yellow card you may invoke the disdain or even hatred of your colleagues (and I won’t even mention that bit about getting hired again by show organizers whose family members were the ones getting carded). In soccer, that one ref is the first and final word. He may rely on the linesmen for things he can’t see, but he’s IT. It’s not decision making by consensus, it’s just decision making.

Not that the soccer ref is always right of course. Watching the FIFA World Cup has put me firmly in favour of the suggested use of video replay in equestrian sport (especially dressage) to sort out disagreements about what happened in the warm up or show ring. FIFA doesn’t allow video replay to enter as evidence in cases of a bad ref call, which this week resulted in a disallowed legal goal by England, and an allowed off-side goal by Argentina – among other things lost on my neophyte soccer eyes. The commentators were clearly in favour of using video replay – and so would anyone who has to sit there and watch replay after replay of something that is undeniably not what the ref called, and then talk about it to millions of viewers. FIFA has apparently argued – like some dressage critics – that using video replay would take too much time and interrupt the flow of competition. Pish posh said the adorably Scottish-accented commentator on CBC’s coverage (think Willy the Groundskeeper from The Simpsons), and I agree. If we can ever manage to get the general public interested in dressage, they will inevitably become more educated as spectators, just like soccer fans know their offsides from their assists – and when Totilas does only 8 steps of piaffe in his WC Final ride, they will cry foul if the score is shown to be the 8 or 9 that starstruck judges might be tempted to give.  I’m all over the Judges Supervisory Panel, but I think video is necessary to give them the teeth they will need to justify their decisions.

Imagine if those judges at the US WEG Show Jumping team trials had grown themselves some balls and flashed a yellow card at Michael Morrissey. They would have saved him a whole lot of grief (not to mention bad press) and a few dollars too. And depending on whether the FEI eventually punishes them or not, the judges could have saved themselves some trouble, too.

Tomorrow is Canada’s Birthday. To all my fellow Maple Leaf redneck cheese eating hosers, I wish you a Happy Canada Day. To my American readers, Happy Fourth of July. May the traffic be with you.