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Articles

Football should remain free of goal-line technology

16 June ~ "Thank you Sepp Blatter," said Mark Lawrenson moments after Frank Lampard's shot crossed the line without a goal being given at last summer's World Cup. "I hope he's here and squirming in his seat." As the head of an organisation that plumbed new depths of farce during its presidential election two weeks ago, there are many reasons why Blatter should be squirming. His caution regarding the adoption of goal-line technology, however, is not one of them. Yet Blatter is not completely alone.

It slipped under the football news radar, but earlier this month Roy Hodgson revealed in an interview that he thought goal-line technology would "sanitise" football. "Albeit that we are looking for perfection," he said, "we must remember that football is not a science, it is a game." But his voice of caution is very much the exception rather than the rule in English football.

The implementation of goal-line technology is presented by the majority of the British media as some kind of cure-all for the game's ills, an opinion Richard Scudamore appears to share. The Premier League's chief executive wants some form of goal-line decision making in place by the 2012-13 season and recently described its absence as an "embarrassment to us as football administrators". To the most powerful man in English football, the game's biggest problem is not managers who cannot behave with dignity when they lose, career-threatening tackles or unaffordable tickets. No, the scourge of football is that tiny, almost insignificant number of occasions when the officials can't be sure if the whole of the ball has crossed the line.

It's actually to football's credit that it has remained almost untouched by technology. Take the example of cricket, which has been fundamentally changed since the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS) was introduced in 2009. Yes, it's improved the percentage of correct decisions made, but what's been lost is that realisation that, when a batsman thick-edges it into his pad and is still given out LBW, success in sport – no matter how hard you practise – can sometimes boil down to luck. Football maintains an essential purity that is important given how much has changed off the field since 1992. Those changes are often brought out by the pro-technology lobby, who say that incorrect decisions are more intolerable than ever given the money that now swirls around the game.

But just whose money is on the line here? It's certainly not the fans'. In fact, a relegation decided on a dodgy decision would actually save supporters money in the form of less expensive ticket prices in a lower division. Sky's investment is also unaffected and technology controversies actually play straight in to the broadcaster's hands. That leaves players and owners as the only people who could be affected monetarily – the only really meaningful way, given that football is just a game – by an incorrect goal-line decision. But Premier League players are almost all enormously wealthy, regardless of results, and any sensible owner should be well aware of the financial risks in football and plan accordingly for sport's unique characteristics.

More important, however, is the way the lack of goal-line technology seems to legitimise players' and managers' behaviour. Proponents of technology often claim that its absence undermines the FA's Respect campaign, essentially arguing that it's okay to abuse referees and question their integrity because correct decisions cannot always be reached. How can managers possibly accept referees' decisions like adults when technology is not used? Well, there is actually one Premier League manager who takes good and bad decisions on the chin and conducts himself with a little dignity. His name is Roy Hodgson. James de Mellow

Comments (34)
Comment by brodes 2011-06-16 12:15:14

I agree. Couldn't really give two hoots about goal-line technology.

It's only when watching matches on TV that decisions seem horrendous. Surely very few in attendance at a match can clearly see if the ball crosses the line or not. If it's your team attacking, you'll vehemently claim it did. If your side are defending then you'll swear blind it did not.

Do these things not tend to even each other out? I know that's not the most scientific of arguments, but it seems to me that all teams get dodgy decisions given against and for them in roughly equal measure.

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2011-06-16 12:27:24

Excellent article and I agree with pretty much everything. Certainly not restricted to football pundits but it annoys me when I hear the view 'everyone wants technology to be introduced'. Well, I don't. There's also the conflating of video reviews for offsides, anything that happens in the penalty area (or anywhere on the pitch, in the technical area or, hell, even the tunnel) and goal-line technology when they're really very different things. When do you stop the game to review a decision when the ball doesn't go dead? And there's something horrible and artificial about a whole stadium waiting for a decision to come from somewhere and a giant monitor flashing up 'goal', 'no goal', 'penalty'. But I suppose those in charge haven't really given a damn about the actual experience of watching live football, you know at the stadium, since 1992.

Comment by jameswba 2011-06-16 13:00:58

Also completely agree. The pro-technology argument cited here -'incorrect decisions are more intolerable than ever given the money that now swirls around the game' is the one I can abide least of all.

Goal-line officials are an absolute and utter waste of time, money and space as well.

Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-06-16 13:13:05

I don't agree that goal-line decisions made by TV are the answer. But some form of goal-line technology is sensible. It's the one decision in football that's not subjective. It is objective. Either the whole of the ball is across the line or it is not. Getting a machine to make objective decisions is actually something they are good at.

And whether a goal has been scored is the most fundamental decision in the game. It's not something like a penalty or offside which _might_ have led to a goal or might not. It's either a goal or it isn't. By definition it changes the result, or at least the scoreline, of a game.

Some form of sensor connected to a wristband bleeper worn by the referee would not be that expensive a technology.

And the argument that 'actually you wouldn't mind if you got relegated on a wrongly allowed goal because it would save you money' is just a piss-take, surely.

Comment by Portmuthian_Blue 2011-06-16 13:32:05

@drew_whitworth

My argument's not "actually you wouldn't mind", it's that bad decisions don't affect fans' pockets, so you can't argue that money is a reason to introduce technology.

Of course, bad decisions are horrible when they happen to your club. But they're a part of the game in general that I wouldn't want to see eradicated

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2011-06-16 13:47:48

I am not sure I agree with everything in this piece but I am a traditionalist and can see even more problems arising once video technology comes in. If we have goal-line sensors, how long before a manager berates an official for not giving a throw in on the half way line and demanding an extension to the technology. An offside decision goes against a team and, well, we've already got line technology in place, why not use it here? A 'big' team who get relegated to the Championship with a ground that has the technology installed would, quite literally, be on a different playing field to a small club with a tiny ground who get promoted from League 1.

The money that has made Premier League football believe it is the most important think in society all comes from television and once it becomes a game totaally controlled from a TV scanner, the purity of the game is lost. Even though it is seen as an improvement, cricket has struggled to adapt completely to the referral system. Some countries hate it, many decision are never clear cut after several replays and different technologies provide conflicting evidence.

One occasion that goal line technology 'could' have affected a result dates back to April 2002, West Brom had a goal disallowed against Rotherham that almost had implications on their promotion to the Premier League. The 2 points dropped in a 1-1 draw however, didn't affect their 2nd place finish but what is forgotten is that Rotherham then survived by 1 point ahead of my team, Crewe Alexandra. ITV Digital had started the season using Hawkeye style technology but, as with most things, it had been dropped from the budget by April. TV isn't the omnipotent, all powerful being it wants us ti believe it is!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2002/apr/08/match.sport6

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-06-16 14:20:51

Technology - YUK! Taking this debate a step further, what about refs using spectacles? It's been proven that even with spectacles refs can occasionally get it wrong. Basically, spectacle technology is still not 100% reliable, so I say BAN IT. And then there's time-keeping. Should the ref be allowed to use one of those new-fangled computerised digital chronographic time-measuring gizmo's (ie a wristwatch) to tell them when forty-five minutes is up? What if the battery runs out? Jeez, why can't he just count out 2,700 elephants, like we used to in the old days?

No but seriously - why is it that the football world still uses the word "technology" to describe what is essentially a video recorder capable of playing back at slow motion, and also being able to freeze the image when required? Er, not exactly space-age is it? I think we need to stop burying our heads in the sand, accept that video playback exists, that it could be an improvement on the human eye - and then find a practical way to make it work for us.

Comment by Tony SD 2011-06-16 14:48:56

I am another not in favour goal line technology. True officials make errors, but then so do players, and managers and it's all part of the game. I remember watching a game on ITV (shudder), and there was a shot that hit the bar rebounded down and then out; the ref waved play on. I couldn't say if the ball had crossed the line or not, but after a replay Clive Tyldesley crowed about how it only took seconds for them to tell us all that the ball had crossed the line and a goal should have been given (I think he may have been flicking the V's to Sepp Blatter as he said it too), then a few minutes later further replays showed that the ball hadn't, in fact, crossed the line and the officials had got it right.

Comment by JayBee 2011-06-16 14:55:55

The article doesn't actually give one reason why goal line technology shouldn't be introduced only reasons why it's not quite as necessary as people portray.

My view is that it's very simple technology that can be introduced to give an almost immediate signal to the ref whether the ball as crossed the line or not.

I'm yet to hear of a genuine reason why goal line technology shouldn't be introduced, the best argument is that it can't be filtered down to all levels of the game. But neither can under soil heating, all seater stadiums, full time refs etc etc. This shouldn't stop the top level of the game from helping referees making vital decisions that can be very difficult to call to the naked eye.

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath II 2011-06-16 15:40:24

You don't need Hawk-Eye technology or whatever. You just need a TV camera looking down on the line (as is the case for plenty of matches anyway), and a TV set in front of the fourth official. That's all.

The entire process needn't take any longer than 30 or 40 seconds to resolve. All this stuff about advanced technological sensors etc is just muddying the waters.

Comment by ingoldale 2011-06-16 16:43:29

I don't wholly agree that goal line technology is a waste of time. As the person before me said, it's one of the few onjective matters in football, however we can only have goal line technology for that decision if it is an instant decision. The continuous nature of the game and the theoretial possibilty of the ball staying in play for the full 45 minutes of a half means we can't have technology that takes a few seconds to make a decision because we all know a goal scored on the counter attack can take only a few seconds to move from one end of the field to another.

Lastly, I do not agree that experiencing relegation means cheaper tickets. As a Grimsby Town fan who has witnessed three relegations in less that 10 years we certainly don't have cheaper tickets as a result of the change in quality of football on offer!

Comment by Bruno 2011-06-16 16:57:38

"The implementation of goal-line technology is presented by the majority of the British media [b]as some kind of cure-all for the game's ills[/b]"

Would this be a straw man argument by any chance?

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2011-06-16 18:17:45

Goal line technology (or a man watching a monitor with a camera feed on it!)wont stop controversy, referee baiting or complaining managers. What else would the pundits and journos have to talk about?

Comment by David Agnew 2011-06-16 18:17:56

I don't agree with all of the article ("But just whose money is on the line here? It's certainly not the fans'. " forgets where all the money in the game comes from in the first place), but the main premise is spot on.

There seem to be two trains of thought. Those who pay to go to games (who usually are resistant to technology being introduced to football) and those who don't (who either work in the media, and therefore have an employer who has a vested interest in the there being more TV involvement in football, or watch the game exclusively on TV, and are used to interruptions in games being covered by replays).

It also seems to be that the only ones that have sat down and thought about this debate are the companies that would profit by creating the technology that would win through, and those of us against technology being introduced.

"My view is that it's very simple technology that can be introduced to give an almost immediate signal to the ref whether the ball as crossed the line or not."

Not a single one of the technology manufacturers has claimed that their system is 100% correct. We should not replace fallible humans with fallible machines.

"You don't need Hawk-Eye technology or whatever. You just need a TV camera looking down on the line (as is the case for plenty of matches anyway), and a TV set in front of the fourth official. That's all. "

And if there's a player between the camera and the ball?

There was a goalline clearance in the Italy-Slovakia game at last years World Cup, that may have been over the line. None of the eight angles (including the one at the side of the pitch) could see, because of the number of players in the box (it was either from a corner or a free kick), and the angle of the player as he was making the clearance would have obscured . Funnily enough, I didn't hear any of the pro-technology debaters use this example in the debate that took place a few days later.

A better way of changing this problem would be extending the use of behind the goal officials as used in the Champions & Europa League. Yes, there have been problems so far, but the officials are doing unfamiliar jobs, and they have a short brief (and sensors to alert the referee, rather than flags like the assistants). What we should be doing is taking the officials from retirement age to the age of 55 (or older) and training them to do the job. They don't need to be fit, and can wear spectacles if needed, and they can do the job week in week out, and get used to doing it. That way, not only can they spot goalline decisions (which neither the referee or linesmen are usually in a position to see, becasuse the latter has to be level with the last defender for all but corners), but they can also spot other things that are on the blind side of the referee than technology pointed at the goalline, and sensors in the ball will miss, such as the appalling offside decision in the Argentina-Mexico match that followed England's defeat by Germany.

Comment by Humus B. Chittenbee 2011-06-16 18:57:38

I find your argument to be so muddled and contradictory as to be totally ineffective. The latter is clearly displayed in the illogical statement "That leaves players and owners as the only people who could be affected monetarily....", when just 2 lines prior you state a relegation would save the fans money. So they ARE affected, just not negatively.

I agree with drew_w in that in this single instance, the outcome [of a goal or not] is so important that it warrants different handling than out-of-bounds or off-sides [both of which are certainly less definitively guaranteed to impact the match.] No matter how seldom used and even if only in the Premiere League.

To David A - What is wrong with simply going with the referee's call when there is no definitive info to overturn? I do not see this as a replacement for the referee but one more tool to assist him in getting the important call correct - much as he uses his linemen now.

A final thought. If fans, et al, truly wish to do something about the 'respect' issue, simply authorize the referees [after teams are advised] starting next season, to deal a card to anyone who abuses the referee [perhaps to the captain when the team surrounds the referee?]- whenever it occurs in a match - even in the first 5 minutes. Yes, I want to see the best people play and the game is not about the referee, but a few instances of referees being supported for holding their ground and a player's actions possibly costing their team a win would get the point across, and such behavior greatly curtailed.

Actually, one more final thought - Television provides several angles, slow motion, and replays which the referee does not have. Most referees do a very hard job with little positive feedback [usually the best they receive is not to have a bad comment made by managers, pundits, etc.] Where is the harm in allowing a referee to acknowledge [after he has had a chance to see the endless replays] that they missed something? Would this not be a cause for more respect?

Comment by Bruce 2011-06-16 19:00:45


who would pay for it? I watch Northern League football and there is no chance that all the teams could afford to install this at our level. But then what happens if a Northrn League side gets to the 1st Round of the FA Cup and draws a league side at home. Would they have to have it installed for that game or lose home advantage?

Comment by Bob8 2011-06-16 19:30:20

Football fans have a strange double attitude.

The sport has gone beyond the example of basketball in misleading the referee being an important part of the game. This is accepted by diving not being punished, to the extent it is an accepted part of the game (otherwise, players would be punished for it after the game). However, fans still whine in anguish and complain if the ref does not spot something.

If what is called foul play was not meant to be part of the game, then we could have someone watching the various TV camera so that players would not know if they were being observed. Equally, diving could result in punishment. More importantly, out of the 10,000's in the stadium and millions watching, they would not ban the only man charged with responsibility for catching coul play.

Football has a choice, give the refs every practical option to control the game (I realise this will mean no TV at every level, but this is a facieitous argument at best). Alternatively, accept that there is no such thing as cheating if you are not caught as a main pillar of the game. At the moment we pretend cheating is outside the game, but it is self-delusion.

Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-06-16 19:45:26

There's an interesting spread of views here. I think it's a sign that neither side of the argument is 'right' - but there are different ways of looking at it.

One thing I think might be better investigated and understood is really whether the technology would be that expensive - and why could it not be portable, so smaller clubs would not have to fork out for a permanent installation?

I cannot believe, with all the technological ingenuity that exists in the world, that it would be that difficult to rig something up using RFID chips and wireless technology that did this job pretty well and only cost a few hundred pounds, also which could be quickly installed at any given ground that needed it just for one game - say, the Northern League club who gets to the 1st round. After all we can rig PA systems up in fields when we need to. It doesn't have to have any connection with TV broadcasting at all.

Drew

Comment by shadsworth cloud 2011-06-16 20:07:42

and the ball that crossed the line but no goal given is an extremely rare occurrence in football. OK so it happened in a world cup round of 16 game involving england, but how many times has it happened in the last season? i can't remember any so is it a case of 2 skinheads fighting over a comb?

Comment by donedmundo 2011-06-17 11:48:05

The people constantly pushing the 'more technology in football' argument are TV people. They already control so much of top level football and they want to control more. Eventually football will only be allowed if TV cameras are present. Football is not like cricket where the ball is actually only 'in play' for perhaps 10% of the game. There is plenty of down time where slow decision can be made. Not only that but when I watch cricket on TV there are many occasions where the decision is still far from clear cut. What are we supposed to do at matches while the TV referee makes up his mind. Ah. That's it. Go to the adverts. Who'dathunkit.

Comment by Bob8 2011-06-17 14:19:30

Dear donedmundo,

I think people vastly overestimate how long the ball is in play in football. It is rare for there to be a full minute without a throw-in, goal kick free-kick etc. Timing it in a game might cause surprise.

The game spends far longer in play in rugby league (though not union), yet this game still operates well (and the game still runs when there are no cameras present). If there is a weakness in rugby league, it is not that the video referee is too controlling, but that they are too weak and can only speak when spoken to by the ref. Were the video ref able to advise in real time (a la a linesman/touch judge), there would be no need for the game to be delayed at all.

By all means keep technology out. However, accept that means Henry/Maradonna handballs are legitimate, diving is a vital skill that we should coach our kids in and that the ref is beyond criticism as he is a circumstance to be taken advantage of.

Comment by rckd 2011-06-17 21:28:33

Really glad to see a lot of people that aren't in favour of goalline technology. I've never wanted it, and never will want it - pretty much for the reasons specified in the article. Moritz Volz wrote an article in The Times a few years back that basically grounded my opinion - essentially outlining football as the most human of all sports.

As has been said - these things even themselves out. To suggest they don't is to question the integrity of the referee, and suggest that they're out to make bad decisions - which I don't agree with at all. If anything, it is the proponents of technology (basically the media, who will benefit most from its usage) that are being disrespectful by questioning the referees' integrity.

Comment by jasoñ voorhees 2011-06-18 04:09:42

I don't understand how we have a goal that is farther over the line than a Sam Kinison routine and yet we have the greatest player of our generation red carded because of an official watching a replay (my ass he saw that live.)

Just set up the 4th official with a tv screen. Or a 5th official. Or add line judges a la tennis, and just pay them half-price for starting at a line for 90 minutes.

Comment by diem 2011-06-18 23:45:56

Regarding the point about affordability for lower-league teams... The usage of "Multiball" (having more than one matchball) varies by competition, with some mandating it and others leaving it to the discretion of the home side.

I see no significant reason why a similar principle cannot be adopted here - if the club has the facilities then they can use them, if not you get by without.

This then re-inforces the idea that this is a system to aid decision-making. If the replays are inconclusive, go with the referee's opinion and move on.

Comment by Bob8 2011-06-19 14:41:31

rckd,

Integrity is not the issue in technology. I am broadening the issue, but diving has become an integral part of the sport. It could be removed in two steps;
- Suspend players who have clearly dived after the game if they get away with it.
- Have a video ref who can alert the ref to offences and would have the advantage that the players would not know where he is looking.

This would eliminate diving as a major part of the game. I would like to see diving considered an offense again, though I accept I am a minority in really thinking this rather than just saying it.

Comment by lennon 2011-06-20 19:34:15

i don't want the "technology" but i think this article has skewed the argument in its' own favour. i don't have a clue what's going on when i'm watching games so i have to trust the judgement of the ref, while all around me are jumping out their seats effing and jeffing. but i have a lovely day out, ignorance is bliss.

Comment by diarmuidobrien 2011-06-21 12:46:02

Great point. Not sure about using Roy Hodgson as the poster boy though...

Comment by diarmuidobrien 2011-06-21 14:35:51

Bob8, your 'broadening of the issue' is now tedious and largely irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Even if I largely agree with your contention on diving = bad.

Comment by Jongudmund 2011-06-21 16:27:54

@ Jonny_Bananas

More recent example - of a goal affecting promotion or not. Shrewsbury v Wycombe a couple of months ago. Wycombe are 'given' a goal that didn't cross the line and end up drawing the match 1-1. They then finish 1 point ahead of Shrewsbury and take the final promotion spot.

Goal-line technology would have kept the score at 1-0. If Shrewsbury had subsequently conceded a real goal, then there wouldn't be much to moan about, but to reach the end of the season and realise your team has been robbed of an automatic promotion place because of an incompetent linesman-referee combo is an argument for goal-line technology that has swayed many match-attending Shrewsbury fans.

All the top football manufacturers could fit a smnall tag inside their footballs - you have to use 'officially approved' balls at any level, and the sensors could be easily mounted on the goals. If they can do it in ice hockey (where pucks and goals are much smaller) then it should be a piece of cake to do it in football at pretty much any level above 'kickaround in the park'.

Comment by Bob8 2011-06-21 19:23:12

diarmuid,
Where did that come from?

Comment by diarmuidobrien 2011-06-22 10:47:12

Nothing personal Bob, just that I feel it's worth pointing out that you drawing parallels between football's lack of action on diving has shag all to do with whether we should take the power of decision making on whether a goal is a goal away from the match officials.

Comment by jonmid 2011-07-02 19:56:17

Look why don't we just try out on a trial run basis if it works use it, if not then don't

Comment by Alex Walker 2012-03-13 20:30:26

"Nothing personal Bob, just that I feel it's worth pointing out that you drawing parallels between football's lack of action on diving has shag all to do with whether we should take the power of decision making on whether a goal is a goal away from the match officials."

How is it taking power away from the officials? The referee would either call for it, or be advised by the 4th official. It's no more taking the power of decision making away than it is listening to the advice of the linesman.

Comment by SWISS 2012-03-16 14:26:26

In times of doubt I always turn to Alan Green (Hi Allan, happy St Patrick's Day) and his callers who 'fink' and 'fort' there way around the thorny ishoos that affect yer Liverpools, yer Manchuniteds and yer Arsenuls of this world.

They're all in agreement.

In this day and age the technology MUST exist for us to tell whether the ball has crossed the line or not.

The callers (great show Allan) are a bit sketchy on how long it would take the 4th official (for it is he who'll decide) to make the call. Some say 'firty seconds' will be enough, uvvers go for even less.

At least we'll have the correct decision.

Considering teams like yer Manchuniteds and Arsenuls of this world can have the ball up the pitch and in the back of your net in about 7 seconds how exactly are we to stop the game?

Line one?...No?.....Line two....hello? Line...3 Is Tom on the M6...'I'm actually on the M25..now hurr hurr-click.'

Anyone?

OK, so we've stopped the game to allow the 4th official to have a look at his monitor, he's taken 29.9 seconds and 'no goal'. Play on!

Nobby..err..you had the ball, err...here.and Nozzer...you..were stood here....I think.

Line 9 Is some daft bat from Reading 'Hello Allan, great show. It works in Rugby, Tennis and downhill skiing why can't it work in football?'

Because football isn't (can you swear on here?) effing ping-pong or paragilding or any of the other stupid 'sports' you pretend to watch but know nothing about.

I have a solution.

For all those people to whom football is about the result and nothing else we'll start new tables in the Sunday Papers for you.

We'll roll two dices and whatever comes up is the result and that's that. No arguing, no comment, no need for technology.

For the rest of us who love a shout and a moan and a laugh we'll stick with football the way it is.

I don't know if you spotted it but QPR's 'goal' was 'scored' from a corner that should have been a goal kick? How far whould we rewind the tape Allan?....? Allan.....? Are you there.....?

For the record. I think that by now the technology MUST exist to bring the dead back from the grave.

But it doesn't.

Play to the whistle!

On the subject...


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