Friday, March 04, 2011

Goal-line Technology: A Wrong Solution Based On Money

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) will meet in Newport, Wales tomorrow to again consider whether football should adopt goal-line technology, which will determine whether a ball has crossed the line in situations where the referee might be unsure. The use of goal-line technology has been being discussed by the IFAB since 2007 (perhaps earlier) and from all the discussion that has surrounded it, a casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that football is plagued by hundreds of decisions each weekend where the referee cannot determine confidently whether to award a goal.


The reality is somewhat different. Any football fan will tell you that dubious penalties far eclipse incidents where it cannot be determined whether the ball has crossed the line. They will also tell you that in both situations, TV cameras instantly replay footage of the incident, allowing home viewers to determine whether the correct decision has been made. Viewers at home were able to see clearly that England’s Frank Lampard scored a goal against Germany and Mexico were furious after an in-stadium big screen showed everyone that Argentina’s Carlos Tevez was offside when scoring during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. FIFA’s response? Let’s censor in-stadium screens.


It is also dubious as to how far down the football pyramid goal-line technology will be used. Who will make the decision on whether it is introduced? If it is the national association, then the Football Association has a big investment ahead ensuring that everyone from Manchester United to Walthamstow Avenue is equipped with the technology. If it is up to the leagues, then where will the line be drawn?


Most top-level football is televised – if not by a broadcaster, then increasingly by a club’s own TV channel or internet site. Replaying such incidents would not delay the game any longer than determining the results from goal-line technology systems. As it wouldn’t cost anything, why not use them? It is precisely because it wouldn’t cost anything that FIFA will not use television reviews. Tomorrow, FIFA will hear a report from ten companies keen to sell their system to football. Although it would provide the same result, using television reviews would not bring any new money into football.


FIFA’s motto is ‘for the good of the game’, yet it is happy to support a system that will cost lots of money, will sort out only a small fraction of wrong decisions and will allow diving and cheating to continue unpunished. A fairer system might be to allow team captains to challenge three decisions during a match, which will then be replayed if the game is being filmed. That way, diving and unjust penalties would also be caught, which can have just as much of an impact on a match as a wrongly-awarded goal.


Andy Brown


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