Time for goal-line technology? No, not really

Prepare yourself for a round of deep scorn, flagellation and recrimination from the tabloids as the inquest into the England football team’s well-deserved World Cup humiliation at the hands of ‘The Old Enemy’, Germany, gets under way from tomorrow. The wise-after-the-event will be dusting off their professional outrage in the traditional quadrennial inquest into the failings of the national game. Part and parcel of that process will be an inevitable debate about goal-line technology following the incident where the match officials missed what would have been an equaliser for England.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to attempt to analyse the woes of Fabio Capello’s team – others will be able to summon far greater hysteria for that purpose, and besides, (unlike its cricketing counterpart) I can’t work myself into a lather over the England football team at the best of times. But as someone who nevertheless loves the game, the sport’s attitude to technology is something that does interest me. Shouldn’t there be a fast and easy mechanism to inform the match officials that the ball has crossed the line?

The arguments in favour are clear and highly persuasive: it doesn’t hold the game up too much, the technology required is fairly simple, and it would have the (very hard to argue against) benefit of making sure teams like England wouldn’t be denied a perfectly legitimate goal (or that teams like West Germany weren’t penalised needlessly in World Cup Finals at Wembley, for that matter). But who said the debate over technology had to be a rational one?

Football is a game which raises the temperatures of those who follow it. Its disagreements and differences of interpretation are among the reasons people read the sports pages and talk about it in pubs and workplaces all over the world. For example, today’s other game (between Argentina and Mexico) saw a controversial opener by a player who was in an offside position when he scored. The goal shouldn’t have stood and all hell broke loose at half time between players, officials and coaching staff on the touchline – and it was great fun to watch.

Controversy is part of the appeal, and there will surely be more before the tournament is over. There are no end of people who will tell you that football has lost something since ‘the old days’ and perhaps they are right. Goal-line technology would take away something else – the talking point – and I think, however irrationally, that the game would be a poorer spectacle for it. It is, after all, meant to be entertainment, and what could be more entertaining than seeing, just to pick a random example, Spurs denied a certain winner at Old Trafford (below) purely because of the glorious incompetence of the match officials? Reason enough to leave things well alone.

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13 comments

  1. There is indeed a ‘human element’ to Blatter’s intransigence on goal-line technology. It is fear of reprisals if illegal betting syndicates were not allowed to continue bribing match officials. With technology installed how could matches be rigged?

  2. total bollocks. you are either being purposefully facetious or really ignorant. Americans told me tonight soccer will never catch on in America because it’s such a terrible sport. players dive and act and rules aren’t enforced properly. fairness is important in sport and unfortunately in soccer there is very little of it. don’t you ever feel like your time is wasted watching your team lose because of poor officiating? or, do you get a kick out of it?

    1. Nice to note your total absence of self-doubt. So where are you drawing the line? Goal-lines? Offsides? Throw-ins? Play acting? At some point you’ll risk making the game as dull as American Gridiron – why do you think that’s never caught on in the rest of the world? Or are you just being “really ignorant”?

  3. “Shouldn’t there be a fast and easy mechanism to inform the match officials that the ball has crossed the line?”

    There is Jeremy – it’s called TV, and everyone in the stadium could have seen the incident (and probably did) seconds afterwards, as we did on the replays. This is not a debate about technology, but about the officials being allowed to use it. The camera positions must have been decided upon before the tournament with the agreement of FIFA, so it’s no accident that there was a camera stationed on the goal line – FIFA want it both ways.

  4. I’ve just got in from work and guess what, no one agrees with my views that technology is bad. 

    I don’t actually like it in other sports either. Take rugby for example: Because the technology is there the referee’s tend to ask for help even though they know a try was probably scored and we all have to sit around waiting for the inevitable decision, or a maul has formed and the ball has disappeared from view and the video ref can’t even make a decision. Rugby matches, despite being ten minutes shorter, now last longer than football matches!

    I agree with the fact that one of the appealing features of football is that it’s the same rules whether it be a pub game or a world cup final. If we bring in technology that will be lost, and how far down the leagues will it be used?

    Also, where do we stop. Goals are wrongly cancelled out for offsides, are we going to have robo-refs?

    Football debates are one of the important aspects of the game.

  5. No to the use of technology because introducing any technology could start a trend. i.e, if they allow goal-line technology, it will only be a matter of time before people call for further technologies to be used in the game, such as touch-line technology for corners and throw in’s, or video replays for offside decisions and fouls. This could lead to the slowing of play and FIFA believe that the rules and officiating of football should be uniform for all nations and leagues. Since goal-line technology is expensive, it could prove prohibitive for smaller national football associations. If the rule cannot be introduced across the board, it should be excluded.

  6. I’m not the slightest bit interested in football, but I agree that by removing uncertainty and randomness from sport, technology also takes much of the fun out of it – at least from a spectator’s point of view. In the Tour de France, the riders wear earpieces through which they receive constant updates and instructions from their team directors, who have live TV feeds to their cars. The result is that ‘spontanteous’ attacks and acts of heroism are actually carefully orchestrated and controlled, with every move among the contenders closely monitored and reposnded to. Eddie Merckx’s legendary breakway of 140km in the Pyrenees at the 1969 Tour (he won the stage by eight minutes) simply wouldn’t happen now. And that’s a shame.

  7. The evidence from Goal Line Cameras will help sway public opinion to higher standards of Fair Play in Football, at least on the goal line, where fair play is most important. It is, however, the responsibility of fairminded football fans everywhere to sway the opinion of FIFA to install Goal Line Technology & update the laws governing goal line infractions.

    If Goalies dishonestly scooping a ball back in play after it has already crossed the goal line disgusts your sense of moral virtue, then Stand Up for Fair Play in Football!

    If Defenders or Strikers deliberately using their hands to deny an inbound ball on the goal line offends your sense of justice, then Stand Up for Fair Play in Football!

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