Why is there so much debate about the use of technology to assist referees and umpires in sport? This is the 21st century and sport at the top level is now a multi-billion dollar industry, so why wouldn’t you use every conceivable opportunity to ensure that the prize money, the trophy and the sponsorships that follow are going to the right teams or players?
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was 77 yesterday (Sunday, March 10th) and I’m so glad that he’s now a convert, but how long has it taken him and his gang of presidential sycophants to join the real world? FIFA recently announced that goal-line technology (GLT) will be used at the World Cup in Brazil next year. Blatter actually said that FIFA would have looked “foolish” had it failed to introduce goal-line technology and he is of course, right. But for someone who says the World Cup tournament he sanctioned for Qatar in 2022 might have to be-re-scheduled because he and his mates have just noticed it’s likely to be a bit hot in the middle of an Arabian summer, I’d suggest it’s too late to worry about his image.
Football’s history is littered with controversies that could have been cleared up with the help of a TV replay and I can’t believe it’s taking so long for Sepp to catch on.
Two of the most famous incidents involve England both suffering and benefitting in equal measure from human errors that could have been averted. At the World Cup in 2010, a shot from Frank Lampard against Germany was clearly shown to have hit the bar and bounced well over the goal line before spinning back into play. The ‘goal’ wasn’t awarded and play carried on. England lost. During the tournament, Sepp Blatter said in a speech that referees should remain the ultimate decision maker.
Two years later at the European Championships, England’s John Terry hooked a ball off the line against Ukraine when TV replays clearly showed it was actually well over. Despite the newly installed presence of an ADDITIONAL referee to judge nothing more than goal-line clearances, Ukraine were denied. Blatter’s immediate response was that goal line technology was a necessity!
So why is it taking so long for some head-in-the-sand organisations to embrace a practice that would instantly eliminate so many issues? They’ve been using technology to determine balls in or out in tennis majors since 1980 where it commenced at Wimbledon. They used Hawkeye at cricket’s inaugural World Twenty/20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, although India’s cricket Board, the BCCI continues to fight the rest of the cricketing world by refusing to adopt the Decision Review System (DRS). They say it’s unreliable but they’re the only ones who do.
If football really DOES want to embrace the new world, why doesn’t it immediately extend it’s new found toy into other areas of the game too? Tennis and cricket decisions are pretty much one-dimensional. In tennis it’s either in or out, in cricket, you’re either out or in. But the physical nature of football brings many other elements into play and implementing GLT without taking advantage in other areas of the game is simply not enough in this day and age.
At the top level, there are so many cameras at a game that offside decisions, tackles and off-the-ball incidents should all be displayed to a video referee who could immediately inform the ref on the pitch for the benefit of the teams involved and for the preservation of peace and harmony in the stands. In the English Premier League today, we have the farcical situation of big screens in the stadium showing the game that the crowd is actually watching, but when a potentially controversial incident is replayed, they have to switch them off! If technology was applied and the facts revealed to all, surely there would be less animosity against officials and opposing players? As it stands, a referee’s decision is dissected by the TV companies from numerous angles in their post-match analysis and week in, week out, the game suffers because one of the 32 cameras at the ground proves the ref got it wrong. Why don’t they let the cameras help the poor bloke????
Whether it’s the traditionalists who cannot bear to see the advancements of the 21st century infiltrating their traditional game, or the sports politicians refusing to accede to the thought of giving TV companies even more importance, they should all grow up and consider their sport. Sepp Blatter is finally being dragged into the 21st century but people who know him better than me suggest he’s kicking and screaming all the way.
Sport across the world remains littered with error-strewn officiating while the power brokers pontificate and procrastinate before they administrate. TV pays millions to broadcast sport across the globe and it’s time full use was made of the technical riches available, before another glaring error hands a trophy and its prize money to the wrong recipient. Former England rugby captain Will Carling opined about the ‘old farts’ ruining the game of rugby. I cannot help but think that we have exactly the same situation in Football. Too many old men who don’t understand how today’s technology can augment the game.
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