Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Referees Teach About Legal Theory

While Germany is on a national (not natural) high over the Soccer World Cup I teach my students that you can learn almost everything about legal theory from watching a soccer game. And I mean it. And I mean the referees. The way they stick to the rules and they way they sometimes don't. The way they enforce the rules, but do not dare to enforce them when outcry (politics) would be too big. The way they always have to maintain acceptance for their decisions. And the way the FIFA, the world soccer association refuses to allow video proof with regards to 'close' decisions. The FIFA knows a lot about law. When you allow too much judicial review or too much public review, the law loses acceptance. The law lives off of a metaphysical presumption that it is valid. And that it is not subject to entire comparison with what is 'really just' and 'really fair'. Law is not fairness. Law might be (and should be) fair in most regards. But it is not identical with fairness. This is not bad. It is part of an important step in civilization.


  1. Hey Viktor,
    I think I disagree. As a frustrated world cup viewer, the judging has been pretty awful. Why do you think the introduction of instant replay and review will undermine the acceptance of the rules? American football and tennis, for example, have incorporated review procedures and I don't think this has undermined football or tennis in some way. If anything, think of a review process not as judicial review but as an appeal, which is an integral part of any modern legal system.

  2. Viktor, congratulations for the German team! They play incredible football and they are an example of the fact that this is a team game - which is not that obvious to Argentinians.

    I´m not sure whether the use of technology would undermine the acceptance of the rules. That may or may not be the case. But I like the fact that there is something "human" to the referees in football, I like it that they can make mistakes just as team players do. And I also think that it is fair play to accept those mistakes as part of the game.


Website Tracker