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Technology In Football: Common Sense Must Prevail


The fall out from Chelsea v. Barcelona on Wednesday night continues unabated today as PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has called for the use of technology in football to assist referees. Speaking to the BBC, he said: “We are putting referee’s in too vulnerable a situation with the conspiracy theories that abound that UEFA would not want an all English final, it was an accident waiting to happen…. Until we bring in technology we are almost giving ourselves ignition points where the game could flare up for players and supporters.”

Tom Ovrebo is the scapegoat of the moment but it boggles the mind how it could have come to Wednesday night for this debate to be once again pushed to the fore. Chelsea are not the only victims of dodgy penalty decisions, Barca were unlucky in the first leg at the Nou Camp and last year Arsenal were denied a clear penalty at the Emirates against Liverpool when Alexander Hleb was brought down, just a couple of examples.

The debate over technology should not just focus on mistakes made on Wednesday night, as Taylor points out the referee is put in such an exposed position by the powers that be in the game. Ovrebo is now under police protection in Norway amid death threats and a media storm. He is not the first, as Swede Anders Frisk retired from the game after abuse suffered following a Chelsea/Barcelona Champions League tie in 2005.

Technology should not be used to make the role of the referee redundant but assist him in making decisions. Look at other sports, rugby union, rugby league and tennis, where technology using cameras has been well and truly integrated into the game. Yes, football is different and played at a completely different pace to these sports but at this point football looks decidedly backward in its application of technology that is widely available.

FIFA and other such organizations are supposed to be the guardians of our game but at this point they seem to be fiddling while Rome burns, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter defending the cessation of the development of goal-line technology. Blatter proffered that these systems are too complicated, too expensive and not foolproof. It may not be foolproof but it would seem likely that it would stand a far better chance than a referee or linesman, standing 20 yards away, having to make an instantaneous decision on whether the ball has crossed the line. 

Admittedly there are issues around how camera and other technology would impact on the flow of the game and which types of decisions could be influenced. For instance with something like Abidal’s sending off on Wednesday you still have disagreements between people when you slow it down frame by frame. Did he make contact? Was it intentional? 

But goal-line technology should be a given, it should already be introduced, what will it take for people like Blatter to pull their head out of the sand and bring football in line with other modern sports?

FIFA believe the best way forward is to improve the standard of refereeing rather than introduce technological advances. Why are the two mutually exclusive? A high standard of refereeing is compatible with the use of cameras to assist their decisions. 

Football’s governing bodies need to smarten up and explore more thoroughly an area that they seem content to largely ignore. If a more cogent and worthwhile debate emerges from Wednesday’s furore then something positive will come from those tawdry scenes we witnessed after the final whistle between Chelsea and Barcelona.

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  1. Goal line Technology.Graham Poll about stupid and stubborn FIFA.
    Legendary ex-international and premiership referee Graham Poll answers questions about Goal line Technology.

  2. Sean Atkinson

    May 10, 2009 at 10:53 am

    The only idea FIFA is willing to entertain is adding an extra official for each goal line.

  3. Rory

    May 10, 2009 at 10:38 am

    That ball in the image is one of the things they have tested for goal line technology along with the hawkeye technology used in cricket and tennis. As far as I am aware for the moment FIFA has no plans to use either form of technology on a widespread scale.

  4. RaiderRich2001

    May 9, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    OK, so have they tested ball flight with this thing?

  5. Jay

    May 9, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Referees are still going to have to make the offside calls themselves unless a blue line like hockey is put into the game and that still requires humanoids. Goal line technology is definitely needed at least at the top tier leagues. They could put a light all around the posts and when the ball completely crosses the line the light comes on and a signal is sent to the referee. Were not talking rocket science here its just simple adjustments that can be made to get more calls right.

  6. Phil McThomas

    May 9, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Goal line incidents are crucial, but they are so few and far between that the effect of goalline technology will be minimal. It’s like finding a cure for a disease that nobody has.

    Putting an additional ref behind the goal is the answer, as far as I am concerned. The decisions will be natural and instantaneous.

  7. Fer

    May 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Use technology but don’t abuse it. Allow it only for very important calls and take the pressure off the referees. By the way, if tennis can do the hawk eye, is it that difficult to implement something similar for offsides?

  8. Thomas

    May 8, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    You could do like Hockey and have someone behind the goal watching if it crosses the line.

    I don’t nessecarily mind adding goal line technology. But I think Video Review should not be used in Football. Completely taking out the human element takes away from the game.

  9. Ben

    May 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Blatter, FIFA and UEFA, need to wake up and bring football out of its archaic doldrum. Is football so special that its immune to technology? That somehow, football is “different”, a special case that can not be aided by technology. Who, in their right mind would be a refree these days? I dont blame Frisks.

    Technology is avialable, and will help take the pressure off ref’s. And, I think it will add suspense to the game when you are awaiting a decision. If Ieven the pace of ice Hockey can use a third man, then football can to.

  10. hank

    May 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Technology might help with goal line and offside decisions, where the decision is mostly a matter of fact.

    Allowing replays on calls for fouls though is a big can of worms that they’d be wise not to open. As evidenced by the Chelsea game, even with endless frame-by-frame replays, there is wide disagreement about whether different fouls were committed. If replays were allowed, it might help in some instances where the official simply didn’t see the play clearly, but in many, fans on either side would still be aggrieved – perhaps even more so since they know the referee saw the replay they did and *still* disagrees with them!

    Also, if replays for fouls were allowed I think there would be strong pressure to slow the game to ensure decisions are correct, and to add much more fine-print to the rules of the game (similar to American Football). I would rather have officials use their judgment (even if I sometimes disagree) than trying to parse the legal language that’d be required to describe when a particular tackle is a foul.

  11. Tyson

    May 8, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    That referee was a complete and utter moron he really screwed over Chelsea. Honestly it’s quite horrid I’ve hated Chelsea for the longest time considering they’ve given us at Old Trafford a few hard years and took away our hard earned glory for a few years but the way they were robbed is so horrid it’s hard to stomach it.

    I felt so bad for my worse enemy I honestly thought at times I didn’t want to watch football anymore. These athletes work so hard for something and then some asswipe whoose never coached a game of this caliber comes and throws it away.

    As sad as it is that hes getting death threats what he did was quite simple a patch on this noble sport. As long as I’ve been watching football I’ve seen many mistakes and it’s fair enough fuck we’re only human if a penalty or red card get shifted here and there its fine.

    This moron though robbed a penalty from Barcelona and then sent off one of their players for no real reason. Then on the other hand he took a whole collection of penalties away from the other side.

    I’m not a Chelsea fan and I’m furious so I can’t even begin to fathom what Chelsea fans felt. It is just such a horrid sequence of events it calls your very respect for football into question and makes you wonder if its all politics and money making.

    When a referee can do whatver he wants and UEFA cant challenge him right or wrong theres a wide margin for abuse. It literally means anything a referee says goes regardless of how controversial it may be or even if it is completely and utterly wrong.

    I’m also quite a seasoned Tennis watcher and I read not too long ago that when they used a special computer system to detect whether the ball was in or out they discovered than over 95% of the time the humans got it wrong so technology has made a difference to every sport out there and sometimes a huge one.

  12. tyduffy

    May 8, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Not to mention Barca was a victim of a poor penalty decision in THE SAME MATCH.

    Technology or not, the game still revolves around putting the ball into the net, and preventing the other club from doing so.

    Perhaps, if Chelsea had decided to play football at the Nou Camp rather than kick the crap out of Barca. The result may have been different.

  13. Philip Taylor

    May 8, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Couldn’t agree more! As long as such technology wouldn’t slow the game down too much, it has to be utilised. We don’t want the scenes of Wednesday night to happen again and it would certainly go a long way to rid our beautiful game of the behaviour shown by Drogba and Ballack. The likes of Blatter and Platini really need to pull the finger out!

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