Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Platini both right and wrong on goal-line technology

On 5 July, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved that goal-line technology can be used by those who wish to in football. I have previously explained why I think that this is not the best solution to the issue of wrong decisions being made in football games here, here, here, here, here and here. Let's get one thing straight. I am not against the use of technology in football - far from it. I just think that there are simpler, cheaper and more effective ways to ensure that less wrong decisions are taken.

UEFA President Michel Platini recently revealed that he is opposed to the use of any technology in football - not just goal-line technology. "If tomorrow someone handballs it on the line and the referee doesn't see it, what then?", he said. "We can't just have goal-line technology. We also need sensors to see if someone has handballed it."

Platini's opposition to goal-line technology appears to be based on the often repeated premise that the use of technology will ruin the flow of the game. I don't buy this argument. Rugby league and union are both fast-flowing games and use technology to review decisions without affecting the flow of the game. All refereeing mistakes in football and both rugby codes are only picked up through television coverage, and this is what rugby uses to review decisions. A simple and inexpensive solution, but one that football has failed to consider. Why?

Platini is right that goal-line technology will only solve one issue - whether a ball has crossed the line or not. It would not have picked up Maradona's handball to score during the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final. Nor would it have picked up Henry's handball during a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Ireland. Nor would it pick up numerous dives or feigning that have led to goals.

I accept that review of every decision is impossible, but it would seem common sense to allow the referee to have another look if he isn't certain. In cricket, each team is allowed to refer three unsuccessful requests to the video referee per innings. Such a system could be adapted for use in football. As I have suggested before, allowing the captain to make just three requests for video review per game would not affect the flow of the game. It would also be simple, cheap and effective.

One of the arguments raised early on was that the introduction of goal-line technology would ruin the 'drama' of the game. FIFA President Sepp Blatter was also against goal-line technology, before performing what has been reported as a u-turn. I think that Blatter has been far cleverer than that. When announcing its approval for the GoalRef and Hawk-Eye systems, IFAB was 'keen to stress that technology will only be utilised for the goal line and for no other areas of the game'. Could it be that in return for advocating goal-line technology, Blatter has managed to convince IFAB to rule out any further adoption of technology in football, thereby killing any chance of real reform, as advocated by other leading figures in football?

It appears that FIFA has forced the IFAB to maintain the status quo, rather than adopting the easier, cheaper and potentially more wide-ranging possibilities that TV replays offer. Goal-line technology will be expensive to install, could affect the flight of the ball and will actually solve few incorrect decisions. It is important to point out that it will be up to national football associations and continental federations to decide whether to adopt goal-line technology, and every system must be referred to FIFA for approval. It will therefore only be adopted by the richest in football, and those who believe FIFA's hype.

Andy Brown


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