Today was another case where fans and professionals all across the country were crying out for goal line technology. This topic has been around for years now, and yet we still seem to be no further forward. Yes, the FA said that they were investigating the possibility, and yes it could be introduced as early as 2013/2014…but do we really think that in this bureaucratic modern, capitalistic, sport that its something that can be implemented overnight? Plus it needs FIFA to give it the overall go ahead, or the UK may endanger itself of being alienated.
The reason for this post today was the FA Cup semi final between Chelsea and Tottenham. 49 minutes into the match and the ball pinballs around the Spurs goal line before being cleared by a defender…but it was deemed that the ball had crossed the line and thus Martin Atkinson gave it – 2-0 Chelsea. Aside from the on rush of protesting Spurs players, the replay clearly showed that the ball was nowhere near the line and the linesmen was in no position to make a decision leaving Atkinson to make the decision by himself.
UEFA are still uncertain if they want to bring in goal-line technology, but have at least brought an extra linesman into their Champions League matches whose sole job is to monitor each box and aid the referee in decisions such as those witnessed today. But this is just a stop-gap surely? Look at tennis; in tennis they have had umpires and line judges for decades, but they still acknowledged the need for utilising new technology and so brought in hawk-eye.
An extra linesman still leaves the outcome down to human decision, and thus open to interpretation. Rugby has been using similar technology for a few years now and demonstrated that if used correctly, can add to the drama of the match rather than detract from the spectacle.
The worry from some corners is that it will slow the game down. If you allow the technology to be used for goal-line decisions, then why can’t it be adapted or extended to examine other incidents, like bad tackles, penalties, or offside debates? If introduced, would the beautiful game take on a stop start mentality like American Football? I’m not saying the NFL is bad, simply that soccer has been around for a good many years and the English Premier League is renowned the world over for being fast paced and dynamic.
Part of me is a fan of the simplicity and passion displayed in football, but part of me see’s strikers diving in the box, defenders elbowing attackers unseen by the referee and wonder if ‘the good old days’ are simply that…something from the past that will never be replicated again. Football is a multi-billion pound enterprise, clubs are run as companies and thus must appease the shareholders, the board and the fans. Having a decision go against you in a match could be the difference between you getting relegated or staying up. Yes there is a parachute payment in the millions for those who drop out of the Premier League, and yes if you are at the bottom of the league there is surely a damn good reason you are there other than one bad refereeing decision! But, would it not be simpler to just use the technology? Embrace the 21st century and bring the game forward kicking and screaming.
My suggestion would be to use the American Football/Tennis philosophy. Give each team a limited number of appeals, they can then decide whether they want to question the decision or not. If they appeal and fail, then they lose one of their time-outs…by limiting the number of times a club can appeal, it will ensure that the flow of the game is maintained and only shortly stopped. Rugby, as mentioned above have made a spectacle out of this. The huge score board uses animations to say ‘Try’ or ‘No try!’, to which half the crowd applaud and the other half scream and sigh…it ensures that the delay is not simply that…a delay. It is an integral part of the entertainment.
Also, how many times have you seen club managers being interviewed after a match swearing a decision did not go their way. Wouldn’t it be easier and fairer, and save a lot of embarrassment and verbal abuse if the decision could be rectified while the match was still being played?
Surely today is the final draw!? Is it time to bring in the technology, even if it is at the lower end of the leagues, or just in cup matches? What would you do? At the end of the day, the decision should be made on what the fans want, without them then what is the point? Investors and the media may have other ideas, but if we are to hold onto the game that pauses a great deal of the nation on a Saturday afternoon then it must be the nation that decides.