This quote was from June 2010 and came from the mouth of the original dinosaur of football himself Sepp Blatter. When he said this, science was already shaping pretty much everything in modern-day football. This is a bi-product of the fact that now clubs need to win at all costs and mistakes or human error need to be kept to an absolute minimum as there is such a fine line between success and failure.
Science is involved in all aspects of a football club; nutrition, football boots, footballs, blades of grass, training methods and football kit. I could easily go on, but there is one area where science has not been allowed to penetrate at all and that is in the rules of the game.
Only this weekend the cry to introduce technology into football matches reared its head again. Not the standard goal-line technology shout, but this time a call for video replay’s. This weekend’s support came from the mouth of manager Steve Bruce.
In Sunderland’s game against Liverpool, defender John Mensah made a last ditch tackle on the edge of the box. Contact was outside the area, but the Liverpool player Spearing’s momentum carried him into the box. Referee Friend initially gave a free-kick on the edge of the box, before he heard a voice talk to him. Divine intervention? Nope, the linesman on his little GI-Joe headset saying it was a penalty.
Now it wasn’t a penalty and the referee called it correctly. Then the linesman stepped in, held the game up for a minute or so and the penalty was given. This was after the initial decision, change of mind, players surrounding the ref, the usual – would it have actually been quicker and better for all involved to have looked at a video replay as the decision was in doubt? It may actually have been quicker. But this is not the main point. Bruce piped up afterwards calling for the introduction of video technology after this blatant error, however this is a completely different kettle of fish to just goal-line technology.
Video technology would mean that decisions can be challenged and reviewed in all areas of the pitch rather than just when a goal is disputed. So technically, as well as bad calls for challenges, this could apply to sending’s off, off-side decisions, penalty or no penalty claims.
If goal-line technology was introduced it would change the game massively, but there would probably only be a handful of times this would need to be used per team throughout the year. It wouldn’t necessarily have to stop the game either with some technologies that have been mooted. But imagine if in all other situations video technology could be used to review bad decisions … the game would lose its edge. Maybe we cannot prevent this, maybe this is the natural way the technology will progress once goal-line technology is available.
In Cricket and Tennis on the world stage we have seen the introduction of technology to dispute decisions. In 2006 the Hawk-Eye system was bought in to Tennis to stop people like John McEnroe having a ‘you cannot be serious’ moment ever again. It works well, the game is fairer, and even brings an added layer of excitement to the crowd.
In Cricket, technology was used as early as 1992 when a third umpire would adjudicate run-out appeals via video replays. The role of the third umpire was expanded to other decisions such as stumpings, catches, and boundaries. Hawk-Eye in Cricket initially started as a TV technology to review LBW decisions during live coverage. Eventually the technology was so good it was trialled in 2008/2009 with a referral system available to teams for disputed LBW calls and Cricket has never looked back.
In both Tennis and Cricket the game has dramatically changed. The added excitement of the use of technology gets the crowd going in these stop-start sports. As we can see with Cricket, once technology was introduced, more followed and the flood gates opened eradicating as much human error as possible from the sport.
Fundamentally this is what could happen in Football and is what Steve Bruce was calling for. Not just a system like Hawk-Eye or one of the others in development, such as the Adidas/Cairos joint venture that will tell you whether a ball crossed the line or not through a chip in the ball, but video replays on all big decisions. Football could easily follow in the footsteps of Cricket and introduce more and more technology. For example, if they can develop flawless technology that can tell whether or not a football fully crossed the goal line, this could apply to any line on the pitch. Throw-ins and corners could come under scrutiny, which is fine if the decisions are instant and don’t stop play.
If goal-line technology is used, I for one will be happy about it. I have seen too many games for club and country where goals have not been given and proved to be pivotal in retrospect at the end of a season or tournament. I think Steve Bruce has a valid point. Referee’s called in to question again, split-second decisions that change games hurt when they are incorrect. But it is a slippery slope, I can see what Blatter is saying (never thought I would say that); technology could suck the beauty from the game.