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Over the weekend, the debate over goalline technology resurfaced as Queens Park Rangers defender Clint Hill’s header against Bolton Wanderers clearly crossed the line with assistant referee Bob Pollock claiming he was unable to see due to a Bolton defender on the line blocking his view. Hot on the heels of the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) announcement that they were committed to accepting technology, and that they would be reviewing two systems in the summer. It now seems inevitable that goalline technology will be introduced to football sooner rather than later, and many media outlets were unable to contain their glee at this development, with one sportswriter on Sky Sports Sunday Supplement claiming that it was football’s embarrassment that it had so far resisted the introduction of technology, although like the rest of the pro-technology lobby, no-one comes up with an answer to some of the logistical questions raised here two years ago. But does the media’s agenda just lie with wanting to improving the game, or is there more to it?
The rolling report on the incident on Sky Sports News was revealing. As well as a plea from Sky Sports’ main analyser Gary Neville saying that technology has to come in because of the sheer number of times these incidents have decided championships and relegations, and how replays can give an instant decision on whether the ball has crossed the line. In Neville’s twenty year career, I don’t recall a goalline incident involving the title race (which is not to say one never happened), and the only time it has had any real effect on relegation was in the 1997 game between Bolton Wanderers and Everton. It could be argued that the decision made on the day decided the relegation battle (as Sky implied), but in fairness that match took place on September 1st, and Bolton Wanderers had another 34 games after the decision to recover their season. Given the countless times that we’re told that these goalline incidents happen, it seemed odd that Sky didn’t come up with any other examples.
One incident Sky didn’t use was the less famous example from the 2010 World Cup, where Fabio Qualiarella’s shot against Slovakia is cleared on, or from over the line by Martin Skrtel (The shot comes around the 1:55 mark on this clip). The Youtube highlights, taken from the BBC, show five different angles. The game on the day (that I covered on the site here) featured more angles and more replays, all of which are just as conclusive. After saying that it would have been a vital goal for Italy to have scored at the time – it would have been an equalizer at 1-1, instead Slovakia would take a 2-0 lead minutes layer – Mark Lawrenson instead proclaims (at the 10:00 mark) on that night’s Match of the Day roundup that “It was difficult to say whether it was over the line or not, and if the assistant referee doesn’t think it is, he doesn’t give it”, which is a much more measured and reasoned response that the “THANK YOU SEPP BLATTER” wail from the England-Germany game three days later.
As well as Gary Neville’s plea, Sky decided to include a short interview with Shay Given in there piece, where Given would refer to the Thierry Henry incident (in the Republic of Ireland and France playoff for the 2010 World Cup) as an example of why technology needed to come in. Which is a strange argument to put forward for goalline technology, as goalline technology would confirm nothing more than the fact that the French goal had crossed the line, with none of the proposed systems are suggesting they can cover handballs several yards away. The cynical would suggest that including Given’s interview to remind the viewer of other refereeing travesties would be to plant the seed after the introduction of goalline technology, that goalline technology would not be enough. A betting man would place money on this not being the case for Sky – after all, someone would need to provide instant replays for TV Officials, in the same was that they do for Rugby League games. Or at least the Rugby League games that Sky broadcast live, as these are the only ones that benefit from technology. If the game is not live on TV, then the game relies on mere humans making all of the decisions instead.
Back to the game that started the debate, and while Queens Park Rangers were denied a legitimate goal, suggestions that this may be the difference between them being in the Premier League and the Championship seemed to skip over the build-up to QPR’s goal, which saw Djibril Cisse equalise despite being offside when Shaun Wright-Phillips provided him with the assist, so it can be easily argued in this case that the decisions have evened themselves out. Mark Hughes only seemed to have an issue with the Hill ‘goal’. Hughes’ post match comments centred around the Football Association’s commitment to goalline technology, and accused them of protecting poor officials, saying that officials simply need to “be better” and that “You can’t hide behind the fact there isn’t the technology to cover up a poor performance”. With Queens Park Rangers sitting currently in the relegation zone, having picked up just one win and five points in the seven league games that Hughes has been in charge, maybe they are charges that he should be aiming at himself and his players.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Excellent piece. I personally am pro-goal-line technology as think their currency in football is so high that we should at least be able to get such decisions right in the “biggest” games, ie the Wo. Appreciate this will not be shared by all.
On a slight tangent, I would however like to see the possibility of a ‘Video Ref’ for the niggly side of things, which is what Shay Given appears to be on about. Cheik Tiote in the Newcastle-Sunderland derby made a bit of a fool of himself by going to the floor for a tap on the chest, albeit had he not done so Sessegnon’s illegal arm-raise would have gone un-noticed. Surely a system of calmly asking the ref to review the incident could lead to less ludicrous diving and put an end to this ridiculous moaning after matches about marginal yellow / red cards “costing us the game”.
The fact is that it IS to the embarrassment of football that it still hasn’t embraced technology, it absolutely is. Lets look at a list of other sports that use replays in some way or form:
So, there is a pretty comprehensive list of sports, many of which are also billion pound/dollar/euro industries with large prize money, and fan anguish on the say-so of officials, officials who have recourse to TV replays to aid them in making the correct decision. But not football. It really is embarrassing, there is no better word.
When this latest incident happened, I was on the BBC website and they discussed with tweeters and texters whether technology should be introduced. The main argument against it seemed to be that these incidents provide “talking points”. Now really, I mean that makes me so angry, a talking point? That is such a myopic view, its a talking point if it happens to another team, someone else gets robbed of a goal, but you? When it happens to your team is it a “talking point”? As if you would sit back swilling your flat ale in your glass and tutting “well now there’s a thing”.
The laws of the game are very clear, the whole of the ball has to be over the whole of the line. That is all there is to it, that is how you score a goal. How maddening to achieve a goal, to get the whole of the ball across the line and then not get credited with the goal. How maddening to stop the ball on the line and have a goal given against you, or even as happened at Watford, have a completely ludicrous decision cost you a goal when the ball went harmlessly wide of the post.
But the most maddening thing of all is this: these errors don’t have to cost teams legitimate goals, these decisions don’t have to cost anyone anything, there is a better way and its a better way that all of the above sports have found. TV replays are becoming an established part of sport and football has absolutely no business excluding itself from that list on the basis it is somehow above or different to all other sports.
Many of the above sports are also played at social levels around the world without replays, it doesn’t cheapen the deal, it doesn’t make the presence of replays illegitimate or illogical. Everyone knows at the start of the game/match that the replay system is/isn’t in use and they can call on it if available, its the same for everyone involved. There are many different approaches used in how technology is incorporated, yes it has to fit within the particular confines of each sport. That is where the discussion should be at in football, not if but how, where and why.
Lets move into the twenty’-first century and stop being an embarrassment.
The fact that, when the corner kick was taken, the ball was outside the corner quadrant, makes it an illegal restart anyway. One decision does not a season make.
Mark, I really look forward to the day when, thanks to the glory that is video technology, Bodmin Town will no longer have to suffer the indignity of legitimate goals being ruled out by incompetent linos unable to decide that the whole of the ball was over the line. What’s that you say? Won’t apply in the SW Peninsula League? What about Plymouth Argyle? Will there be video replays in League 2? Phew. Hang on – we might get relegated. Tell me it’ll still be there for us in the BSP. It will, won’t it? We’re not going to have one set of rules for the Prem and another the rest of us are we? Are we?
Oh well. At least no more championships or relegations will be decided by phantom goals. What’s that 200%? There never have been any? Remind me again why we’re doing this? To give Sky even more control over the game than they already have? Of course! Silly me!
Last season in League Two Shrewsbury Town played Wycombe Wanderers, which ended as a 1-1 draw. The Wycombe goal did not cross the line. This was obvous at the time to most people with a clear view of the incident. It was subsequently proved by the match recording. At the end of the season Wycombe finished one point clear of Shrewsbury and claimed the final automatic promotion space. The decision of the assisant referee cost Town promotion.
The assistant couldn’t have seen the ball cross the line, because it didn’t. He guessed and got it wrong. That is why I believe the assistant was right about the QPR incident – he he couldn’t be sure that the ball had crossed the line so was correct not to give a goal. Why should he be pilloried for that?
Two points arise from the Shrewsbury incident. Firstly, why wasnt there the same fuss as there has been about the QPR incident? It was a fully professional match, just like QPR v Bolton. The outcome had financial consequences for the injured team. Of course it was because it was a League Two match and no body in the media is really bothered about clubs down the league.
The other thing is that will clubs down the league be given the same access to the relevant technology? If it is so important to eliminate human error from football (at least where the match officials are concerned) surely this is something that should be available to all clubs, not just those that are able to afford it.
The article points out several reasons why I remain to be convinced that technology would be a positive thing.
All very valid arguments for and against but I think those that run the game need to at least try something, whether it be cameras or micro chips in balls, whatever the technology, give it a go. See what comes of it.
It wasn’t a title decided but when Perdro Mendes effort from halfway was ruled out at Old Trafford a few years ago the points Spurs would’ve had from that win would’ve seen them through to the Champions league qualifiers that season, not Arsenal (who overhauled us on the last day of the season). One would argue that players like Michael Carrick would’ve stayed had that been the case, others attracted, the side strengthened etc etc.
Like I said, valid arguments for and against.
This is something that each and every football fan should be eager to see implemented in the game that we love. As the world evolves, football has to evolve with it.