Goal-line technology debate back on agenda

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Another Premier League weekend, another high-profile talking point as QPR lost 2-1 to Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.

Nothing major to report there, apart from the fact that in the first-half, with the scores level at 0-0, the visitors had what should have been a clear goal not given after Clint Hill headed home from a corner.

However, the referee, and more importantly the assistant referee, were not 100% sure of the decision, and so Adam Bogdan was handed a reprieve after saving from behind the line.

A quick replay on the Sky Sports cameras showed a clear mistake from the officials, with the ball a good distance behind the line.

But, with no goal-line technology or replay system in operation in football, tomorrow’s hot-topic in the newspapers will be of little consolation to Mark Hughes, whose side never recovered from the blow and now find themselves in a serious relegation battle.

Should they go down by a close margin, this is an incident that everyone will look to, with the financial ramifications of relegation massive. It’s a decision that could cost the Hoops £50 million, and so the FA’s instant statement in response was understandable.

"Following last week's meeting of IFAB (International Football Association Board), the FA would like to reiterate our strong desire to see goal-line technology introduced as soon as possible," read a statement on their website just an hour after the incident.

"The FA has been a leading proponent of goal-line technology for many years. We will continue to press for its introduction once further independent testing is complete later this year, so that anyone wishing to introduce the technology is able to do so at the earliest possible opportunity."

Unsurprisingly, the English have been one of the most vocal supporters of goal-line technology following Frank Lampard’s goal that wasn’t against Germany at the World Cup in South Africa.

The first steps to introduction were taken at the IFAB meeting last week, with two systems set for rigorous testing as we appear to enter the final stage before its introduction. But, with a decision not expected until July, it’s unlikely that the technology will be used next season, meaning another campaign of talking points if the officials continue to get things wrong.

And that, for Hughes at least, is the major problem. The QPR boss believes the goal-line technology debate is simply a smokescreen to try and protect those in charge of any individual game, who need to make the right decisions.

"The laughable thing is the FA have come out and said they're all for goal-line technology. I think that's absolutely ludicrous that they come out and try to protect the poor performances of the officials they supply us. It's a joke," said Hughes post-match.

"In fairness they even got our goal wrong because that was slightly offside so they haven't covered themselves in glory. They missed a penalty, they missed a handball in the area. In the end I think the guy on my side completely lost his nerve to make any decisions.

"It (technology) should come in, but until it comes in then the assistants should do the job they're supposed to, which is check whether the ball has crossed the line."

A scathing but fair assessment from Hughes.

One of the key questions about technology is to what extent it can be used. Is it only something for the elite, to be used in the Premier League and Champions League and major international tournaments? What about the lower leagues? What about Sunday league football?

You can only presume that this technology is going to cost, so it’s unlikely that your average team can afford to invest. And, with so many football league teams in financial trouble, will a burden be placed on them to fork out money to have the systems in place.

It’s a legitimate point and one that Premier League teams don’t have to think about, but could separate the top teams even further from their lower counterparts.

One of the other potential criticisms surrounding technology is that it could ‘slow down’ the game. The fear is that, particularly in England, the fast and furious tempo of a game could be affected by the need to watch replays and check technology.

However, examples of success can be seen in both Rugby League and American Football, where decisions often go to a video replay. Whilst the process can take several minutes, it adds to the drama both on television and in the stadium. Additionally, if the right decision is made, then surely it’s worth the wait.

In football, if technology is only used for goal-line decisions, then this time delay is likely to be much less, as it’s simply a case of did the ball go over the line or didn’t in. In other sports, like the NFL, a number of other issues have to be checked on a play before the touchdown is awarded.

On the whole, the arguments for goal-line technology far outweigh any ideas and problems against the system, and providing one of the two systems being tested provides conclusive results that it works, it can only be a matter of time before its introduction.

However, a word of caution must be mentioned over the possibility of using technology for other decisions. The referee must maintain a strong level of authority, and along with his assistants, their decisions in other aspects of play, including the award of penalties, needs to remain at a maximum.

If not, what else would we have to talk about on a Monday morning at work!

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