Goal line technology: No

Regular readers of Thoughtsport will know we’re not fans of goal line technology.  We realise this places us in rather the minority.  Here’s a mere snippet of those arguing for, just from a quick blog search:

Sepp says ‘enough is enough’Sporting Interests
Robbie Fowler: FIFA must end this goal-line farcePaddy Power Betting Blog
England 1 – 0 Ukraine. Co-hosts sent home as demands for goal line technology get another boostFull-Time Whistle

We won’t go over our old arguments that football is a great leveler.  Tall or short, heavy or light with the right application, skill and determination you can be a footballer.  If you play down the park on a Sunday you could (in theory) play with Lionel Messi, Pele or whoever the heck you want because you’d be playing the same game.

Same rules; same pitch dimensions; same ball — it’d be the same.  Introduce goal-line technology and suddenly the pros are playing a different game.

No, we won’t go over that again (you can read our old blog if you want to).

Last night’s England game against Ukraine, which reignited the goal line technology debate, didn’t alter ThoughtSport’s position one bit.

Watch the ‘goal’ yourself on the BBC website: The ‘goal’ that wasn’t: Ukraine denied equaliser

All the media talk this morning has been about Sepp Blatter, Fifa, Uefa, HawkEye, assistant-assistant refs (what do they do anyway?) — there’s even the age old “these things even themselves out in the end” with much smirking about Frank Lampard’s goal that never was against Germany in the last World Cup.

They are all missing the point.

Watch the ‘goal’ again — notice anything?  Probably not as the Beeb are glossing over the same key point too.  Even their tabloid-esque headline (beneath you BBC) ‘The ‘goal’ that wasn’t: Ukraine denied equaliser’ tells you they’ve made up their mind already.  Why let a few facts get in the way of a good story; especially one which means they can beat the goal line technology drum again.

Milevskiy: Shhh! Don’t tell anyone… but I was offside!

It wasn’t a goal.  Or at least it shouldn’t have been.  Artem Milevskiy, the first Ukraine player to touch the ball in the BBC clip, was offside.

You remember offside?  The rule that says you must at least be level with the last defender when the pass is made?  Yes, there are ‘interfering with play’ rules and caveats, but this fella, Milevskiy, receives the pass directly so no ‘interfering’ rules need interfere.

Why is it that one official’s mistake (the assistant referee who should have spotted the offside) is irrelevant when another’s (the extra assistant who didn’t spot that the ball had crossed the line) is deemed all important?  So important we need to exhort Fifa to sort this mess out?

There’s the rub with goal line technology.  It’s too black and white.  The question the technology is asked is: Did the ball cross the line?  There are only two answers: Yes or no.  The system Fifa are supposedly trialling will alert the referee, via an audible beep in an earpiece, that the ball crossed the line.

Technology would not tell him if the player handled it over the line; it would not tell him if the player was offside when he ‘scored’; it would not tell him if he had in fact fouled the defender/goalkeeper to reach the ball and ‘score’ — all of those things would be down to human judgement.

Dear old human judgement.  It’s what makes football the game we love.  Will the winger try to go one way or the other?  Will he have a shot himself or try and pass?  Will he lunge in now or try and force him wide?  Decisions that are made thousands of times in every game which make every game different.

Mistakes (interspersed with brilliance) are what makes football great — whether they’re mistakes by players or officials.

If those who advocate goal line technology think it will solve all such problems they need to think again.  What will the media broo-haha be if England concede a goal which is ‘allowed’ by goal-line technology but is punched over the line Maradonna style?

Think the sequence of events that would lead to that is all together unlikely?  Perhaps you should read our old blog post after all…  if you’re Irish you probably won’t need to.

Video technology: The argument against

Much hand-wringing in football following Thierry Henry’s handball in the Fifa World Cup play-off match against Ireland.

The Football Association of Ireland and Irish fans around the world protest;  Fifa, Uefa and the French Football Federation get their heads down and hope it will all go away.  Neutral’s are aghast and Henry’s reputation takes a severe dent.

Once things are cleared up and any (faint) chance of a replay is dismissed as impossible – only then does Henry concede a replay would be “fair” – not a million miles away from Andre Agassi only admitting his drug taking past only when he new it was too late to punish him.  Hardly brave.

Once again football fans, journalists and pundits around the world are baying for video technology to be introduced.  “There can be no argument against it!” they say.  Well, they’re wrong, because here it is.

The beauty of football, why I love it and I suspect you love it too is it’s universality.  Those heart-warming pictures you see of kids in ghettos playing with a ball made of plastic bags, with twigs rammed into the dirt as goal-posts (usually as part of one country or another’s World Cup bid) – they have a deeper meaning too.

Football can be played by anyone, anywhere.  Much as we all dreamt (or still dream depending on your age/grip on reality) of being Crufy/Pelé/Maradonna/Best/Cantona/Dalglish et al and knew it could never be so – we could still dream.  Football is achievable for everyone.  If you have a couple of mates and something anything that can serve as a ball you’ve got a game.  Heck, you don’t even need a few mates, a wall or something to bounce the ball back from will do.  Add imagination and you’re in the Bernabeu, the San Siro or scoring the World Cup winning goal at Wembley.

Same game

The team you play for at school, on a Sunday or in the Pub League – you’re playing the same game as those kids with twigs in the ghetto and the exact same game as Liverpool, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Corinthians etc. are all playing too.

Sure, they’re playing it better (mostly) but it’s the same.  The same equipment, the same pitch size maybe even the same ball if you put the latest adidas on your Christmas list last year.

As Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini tinker with the rules they’re still within reach.  Ok, your Sunday league may not have linesmen (sorry assistant refs) and your playground game may not even have a ref – but that’s not a rule that’s just down to availability.

Even if Platini’s experiment with AARs (Additional Assitant Referees) becomes law you could, in theory, still have those in place in the park on Sunday.

Add in technology: video replays; goal-line technology whatever – and that achievable link is gone.  Forever.

Most small local teams struggle to find the money for kit and bus hire to get to games.  Video technology is a million miles away from their budget.  Even many professional teams couldn’t afford it.  As more and more Football League clubs in England flirt with financial disaster the idea of adding to their costs is ridiculous.

Therefore a line would have to be drawn.  Videos would only come in a Premier League level or perhaps in the Championship too.   Is football really more important in those divisions?  Several tens of thousands of fans of teams in League’s One and Two would say otherwise.

And then what about Cup competitions.  If a tie is at a ground with the technology, should it be used?  And if the replay’s at the ‘smaller’ team’s ground, without the technology?  It would just be a murky mess of a disaster, waiting to happen.

Referees aren’t perfect.  Mistakes are made – as the match in the Stade de France showed.  But mistakes are as much a part of football as the glorious moments when everything goes right.

The most glorious thing of all is that football should be like justice – for all, not just those that can afford it.