Goal-line technology is something that the world of football has been debating for years. Just off the top of my head I can probably think of at least four 'goals' that have been either given or not given over the course of the last 10 years, yet nothing has been done about how we officiate the game, nothing has been done to ensure there is not a situation by which officials can be sure if the ball has or has not crossed the line.
Recently the English Premier League voted in favour of goal-line technology giving the contract to develop the system to sports giant Hawk Eye, the company which provides similar services to tennis and cricket.
The system will have seven fast-frame cameras located above and around each goal. These track the balls movement within the frame of the goal. If the software the cameras run on decide that the ball crosses the line the referee’s watch will vibrate within a second of the ball crossing the line and can award the goal. Hawk Eye says that this system is "millimeter-accurate" and that they will provide definitive virtual replays to television outlets.
All of this sounds good on premise. No more 'did it cross the line' debates, no more goals will be missed like Frank Lampard’s 'goal' versus Germany or if you want a closer example than that – Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick goal in the 1966 World Cup final.
UEFA last season experimented with the officials behind the goal-line, who seemingly did nothing at all of any value, and have said that they will not be adopting the goal-line technology, a view that seems unlikely to change so long as UEFA boss Michel Platini has anything to do with it.
People have criticised UEFA for not implementing the technology into the Champions League given how important the games are, but UEFA want the game to be played without technology - and you know what? I agree with them.
Yes, I understand that goal-line technology is a good thing – not even I will argue that – but the potential ramifications of the decision to use this technology are essentially endless.
The FA’s previous rhetoric for not using goal-line technology was that they wanted to keep the game the same from the grassroots level up to the professional level. The rules are the same for Yeovil Town Ladies to Wayne Rooney playing at Manchester United, to my friend Dave playing in a Sunday League team in his local park, to a few kids kicking a football around using jumpers for goalposts.
This is what makes football the global game that it is. Anybody can play it, understand it, and love it at the drop of a hat (or two jumpers, for that matter).
The next step from goal-line technology is to review things like offside decisions, penalty/free-kick claims, and even off the ball incidents, while the game is in play.
Richard Hawkins, Hawk Eye’s creator, says that goal-line technology will not slow down the game, that the game will not become like rugby where there are multiple stoppages when the referee goes to the virtual referee to decide whether a try has been scored or not.
While Hawkins is right that football’s introduction of goal-line technology will not slow the game down, the potential implementation of more technologies down the line, will. They’ll have to.
You cannot review an offside decision in a second, you cannot review whether something is a penalty or not in a second and you cannot re-asses whether a player has dived in a second.
Major League Soccer in America is a prime example of how not to use technology in football. They do not use it during the games, but rather use television replays to retrospectively ban players who dive. To me this is a complete farce. Diving or simulation is part of the modern game, and unless you expect the officials to be able to see every little tug of the shirt, or elbow, or trip, then sometimes you need to go down to get the decision.
If you keep punishing people for showing the referee that they are being fouled – which, lets face it, has to be obvious, he only has two eyes and there are 22 players on the pitch – then you are going to need to need more technology to review everything that players protest about or you as the official are unsure of.
It never ends!
Historically, the introduction of technology into sport has slowed things down, and it changes how the game is played at the level that introduces the technology. The FA always have said that they want to keep the game the same at the grass roots level as the professional level and I have always respected that hard-lined approach that they took with it (unlike many other things the FA does).
Now that goal line technology is here, it is here to stay, but we must proceed with caution. Football is attractive to so many people because it is free flowing and fast, something that could potentially be lost by the inclusion of more technology further down the line.
That is why goal-line technology should scare you. It should scare you because it has essentially just opened Pandora’s box, and there is no knowing what is going to come out of it.
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