Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Goal-Line Technology Not Welcome in Football

F.A. Cup confusion
The debate surrounding goal-line technology in football has surfaced once again, following a phantom goal during Chelsea’s F.A. Cup semi-final victory over Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday. At the time of the goal, The Blues held a slender 1-0 lead, but following the absurd refereeing blunder, they went on to complete a 5-1 demolition of a bemused and bewildered Spurs side. As predicted, many of football’s greats, past and present, took to their social networking sites of choice to air their grievances regarding the latest high-profile controversy, as the introduction of goal-line technology appears increasingly imminent.

But, would this really improve the game of football?

As stated in Law 10 ‘The Method of Scoring’ on page 32 of the official FIFA ‘Laws of the Game’ manual: “A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar.” 

At present, this is a judgement call made by the referee and assistant referee, whose view is potentially obscured by players, leading to the belief that introducing technology would eradicate such issues.

FIFA is currently testing two potential camera-based methods, including ‘Smart Ball’ and ‘Hawk-Eye’.

The former refers to balls equipped with censors and magnetic fields around the goal to give a real-time verdict on whether or not the ball has crossed the line.

Lampard out of luck
A similar system was trialled by FIFA in 2005 and discarded upon learning of just a 95 percent accuracy rate.

The latter system uses triangulation, through six high-speed cameras, only needing to observe 25 percent of the ball to determine its location, overcoming the concern of players blocking the line of vision.

However, this is not real-time and would therefore require stoppages in play for disputed incidents. Cost of installation has also been estimated at £250,000 for each stadium to utilise such technology. 

In this instance, a greater divide between the Premier League and the lower leagues would be created, an act which would be frowned upon by those unable to afford such facilities. It seems difficult to justify the costs of implementation for a scenario which is relatively rare.

True, most big-money sports in the modern era take advantage of technology to aid decision making, including finish line calls in horse racing, swimming and athletics. Cricket and tennis both use Hawk-Eye for in-line judgements, whilst rugby employs video referees for dubious try decisions.

To many general sports fans, football may appear to have been left in the dark ages, but all dedicated football fans will appreciate the one resounding difference between their favoured discipline and the others mentioned above.

Keeper 'saves' a goal
Football is the only non-stop sport, whereby breaks in play are few and far between and the very ethos of the game is based on hard, fast, flowing action. To introduce lengthy stoppages, interrupting the natural rhythm of the game, would be to remove the heartbeat of a sport which has survived perfectly well throughout the ages, without the need for such inclusion.

The most famous case in recent history occurred in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when Frank Lampard’s 20-yard strike was judged not to have crossed the line, despite video replays showing the ball was a foot over the chalk.

Sure, England had reason to feel hard done by, but the fact remains, they were horrendously outclassed and convincingly defeated 4-1 by much classier opponents. So, rather than being a decision that changed the outcome of England’s World Cup fortunes, it became an event that was used as a scapegoat to mask England’s lack of talent.

Similarly, on Sunday, Tottenham were equally unlucky to have a goal awarded against them, which never crossed the line. But, despite Chelsea scoring on four other occasions, in an impressive 5-1 rout, it was the irrelevance of the goal that never was, which stole the headlines.

As with these two instances, there would be little to no overall change of the successes and failures in the football world.

The 1966 World Cup Final
The one major argument in favour of goal-line technology is justice. The problem being, the use of technology for one scenario creates inconsistencies in others.

For example, a referee may possess the power and knowledge to award a goal after confirming, through video replay, that the ball has crossed the line. Yet, if the corner that lead to the goal should never have been given, because video replays show the defender never touched the ball, it is impossible to claim justice in this situation.

The only way to achieve real justice throughout football is through the total use of computerised, video-assisted, robotic referees for every single decision, including throw-ins, free-kicks, corners, goal-kicks, penalties and goals causing uncountable stoppages and the complete death of the game.

Yes, sometimes humans get decisions wrong and sometimes they go in your teams favour and sometimes they do not, but this is part of the game. 

Genuine football fans would agree that half the enjoyment of being a spectator, is the debates that ensue over the referee’s big calls. As the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, claimed, “Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of sport.”

FIFA not keen on cameras
FIFA have always claimed their objective is to open up football to the world, a notion that is made impossible by the undermining of its universality. 

The idea of an ancient sport being replicated all over the planet, promoting ‘jumpers for goalposts’ football, is removed with the suggested inclusion of complex modern goal-line technology.

After all, football is an art, not a science.

Written by Dom Wallace


  1. Couldn't disagree more Dom.
    These kind of decisions only crop up a few times in a game and take moments to clear up. TV audiences are shown conclusive evidence before the players have finished their celebrations in most cases so why can't a fourth official take a look straight away and clear up any errors?
    Also, saying lower league teams won't have the same technology is a problem seems silly. This isn't an issue in any other sport. I certainly don't miss hawk eye during a Saturday game of cricket but at the top level these decisions are more important.

    1. @Tom Iddon

      I appreciate as a Spurs fan, right now you will be feeling pretty emotional in the heat of what happened on Sunday. But just take a minute to understand my argument regarding so-called 'justice'. This is just one area of the game we are looking at. As I mentioned - if the corner/throw-in/free-kick leading to a goal should never have stood, how can you claim justice is being achieved by using cameras to check whether the ball has crossed the line. Surely, the only way to do this, is to either have cameras for everything or nothing at all. I honestly see no problem with leaving decision making to human judgement - it keeps the game universal and over time, decisions even themselves out. Also, from a social point of view, imagine how dull the public houses would be if there were no room for debate over the unfolding of play on the sports field...

  2. Sam Manners say:

    I think you make a valid point Dom in terms of "justice" and then where do you 'draw the line', however the game has evolved since its creation as mob football beyond all recognition, for a start we only use our feet now. What we are left with is one of the most popular worldwide sports that is still played by millions on a recreational level every weekend.

    Apart from a few shockers along the way like silver goal and the current over complication of the offside rule, the game has become better regulated and most importantly safer. To deny goal line technology for the argument of a universal and accessible game, is to ignore the obvious fact that football played at the highest level does by its very nature differ from grassroots. As a P.E. teacher I do not see this as a negative, should kids not have something to aspire to, high quality football and a rewarding career in a well regulated sport?! Do those currently playing it set a good example as role models and is the excessive money helping the game at the top level? Of course not but I digress.

    A top level referee and his assistants are often much better qualified and experienced in the premiership than my park football referees at the weekend, of this I am certain. This means decision for decision the accuracy of these will be better the higher the standard of football, add this to perfect pitch conditions, fourth officials and 80, 000 fans, does this not mean a natural gulf already exists, just like as Tom referred to; it does in every other sport which already seem to embrace a better standard of officiating through modern technology. I agree we must draw the line somewhere, the game would suffer from constant stoppages to check replays, but a foul and many other rules in football are subjective and a number of variables can effect a decision, this is what we pay the officials for and allows for the debate in the public houses, but a goal is a goal as you quoted from law 10 if the whole ball crosses the line, a simple check if the new technology is reliable, and saves teams, players and fans from being robbed of what makes the game truly entertaining; a genuine goal.

    I for one still continue to enjoy Tennis, Cricket and Rugby, all of which I teach and play at an enjoyable recreational level. The game will always be entertaining, that is why it has been so successful, there is too much worldwide passion at stake for those in charge to let it die. Use the modern technology to ensure elite professional football, is kept fair with retrospective punishments of the divers and the cheats and allow millions to celebrate every hard earned goal that crosses the line. Out in the park if there are no goals posts, the kids will still throw down jumpers, debate if the ball crosses the undrawn line and dream of the day they can play at a level where they can know for sure if they scored that illusive goal in the beautiful game....

    p.s. I am a Chelsea fan as you may remember, I'd rather just the other four goals stood ;) sorry Tom

  3. Sorry Dom - as the supporter of a team who had a goal not given which crossed the line on Saturday (which would have taken us to within two points rather than 4 of being out of the championship relegation zone), I have to say that I can't wait for goal line technology to be introduced. It's also a bit of a myth that football is a 'contiuous' game - on average the ball is only in play for less than 2/3s of the time. Enjoyed the article though! john cox

  4. @Sam Manners

    Sam, you make a well rounded argument, however, I'm struggling with the idea of retrospective action for divers and cheats. Sure the F.A./UEFA/FIFA may be able to dish out a retrospective booking for simulation after the game, but where is the benefit, if the penalty has long been awarded and the winning goal, which should not have stood, has already been scored in the world cup final for example.

    For me, the issue we face with diving at present is way more pressing than the issue of balls crossing the line. Diving is guaranteed to happen numerous times during every half of every game. An argument of the ball crossing the line happens much more seldom. Diving (especially in and around the area) leads to far more causes of injustice than a debatable decision as to whether the ball crossed then line.

    If you have no problem with stoppages in the game, then surely let's start with the biggest issue and use cameras for diving before we tackle all the other problems that modern-day spectators manage to find in the game.

    What ever happened to 'the referees decision is final' and 'play until the whistle'? The mindsets we were all taught and will no doubt bring up our kids to obey. Why does it all change when we become adults - to me this actually seems like a regression.

  5. @John Cox

    Thanks for your thoughts. It seems to have been a freakish weak for goal-line debates in terms of 'was it/wasn't it' moments. Sorry to hear you were on the receiving end of a bad call.

    As stated in my response to Sam, I believe we have a situation whereby we must review everything or nothing, otherwise there is no consistency.

    Personally, I believe the referee is paid to do a job and should be entrusted with the responsibilities. After all, where is the excitement and discussion surrounding football going to come from if we have the greatest form of art controlled by the most modern form of scientific technology.

    Soon it will be robots for referees. Bad times.

    As for the argument regarding the ball in play. You are right, the ball is only in play for around 66% of a game, but this, we must remember, is all relative. This is a far greater percentage than that of rugby, for example, where the ball is only in play for 40% of the time. So, sure, the statistic might surprise some people, but all things relative, football is still the most continuous game out there.

    Let's keep it that way!


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