In early 2010, a friend of mine swore allegiance to his coach and wanted to follow him from his current club to pastures new. At amateur level making such a move is a fairly straight forward process.
However, my friend is French and the new club was predominantly made up of Irish players. ‘What’s the problem?’ you ask. I’ll reiterate that this is early 2010 and only a few months earlier there was a World Cup qualification match between France and Ireland. At the time, the wounds caused by Thierry Henry (almost impersonating a waiter – he held onto the ball for that long) handling, not once but twice, in the penalty area on his way to setting up a French equaliser (making it 1-1 in Paris and 2-1 to France on aggregate) was still very much fresh in the memory. You can therefore sympathise that my friend was more than slightly apprehensive.
According to Michel Platini, UEFA President and former French superstar attacking midfielder, there is no need for video technology as “it is only required once every 40 years”. 40 years? Is he sure of that? Because in addition to the France v Ireland debacle, there’s Frank Lampard’s ‘equaliser’ against Germany in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup to consider (below).
More for Monsieur Michel. Spurs against Man Utd in 2005. In the 89th minute at Old Trafford with the game scoreless, Pedro Mendes attempted to catch Roy Carroll off his line. Carroll spilled the ball, which clearly went behind the line but he scrambled back and cleared the ball. The goal was not awarded as the linesman could not keep up with play. (The footage ends in slow-motion with Frank the Tank commentating after taking a tranquilliser dart in the neck – this will only make sense if you have seen Old School!)
These are only a few examples. How many more examples do we need for the powers that be to wake up to the fact that the game requires changes?
In the poll which I published last week, 64% of you would like video technology implemented for goal-line decisions, 14% would like video technology involved in all key decisions and 22% prefer controversy instead.
Personally, I voted for goal-line video technology. I don’t buy the whole, ‘football is a controversial game and it should stay that way.’ Let’s get things perfectly straight. Football matches are decided by goals and in South Africa, against the Germans, Frank Lampard equalised. The true score was 2-2 (after England were 2-0 down). It could have become the game of the tournament had the correct decision been made. Alternatively it may also have made no difference to the outcome particularly with the likes of Gareth Barry demonstrating, to the entire world, his best impersonation of a fermented apple-eating, intoxicated moose.
Why would bringing in goal-line technology be detrimental to the game? ‘It would slow the game down!’ I disagree – when a decision is currently contested it involves ten players running after the referee like a scene from the Benny Hill show. My proposal is this – if a shot is cleared off the line but there’s enough commotion to suggest that it may have crossed the goal line, why can’t the referee immediately radio the fourth official, who has access to a monitor and can sight replays to rule on that one basic decision whilst the game continues. A rule could be implemented to ensure that a decision is made in 5-10 seconds. You could argue that a goal could be scored at the other end during the 4th official’s ‘consultation’ time, but at least the benefit of the doubt will be given to the team that has potentially been robbed. Importantly, goal-line technology would give the referee the power to make a decision in line with the views of the majority.
Should key decisions, such as red cards and penalties, be contested? My opinion is that they should not be, simply because people have different opinions. Penalties, free-kicks, two footed tackles, goal scoring opportunities, red and yellows cards are subjective decisions even though there are rules in place and that is why there is a referee in football. Even after video replays fans still argue. Next time you watch a game listen to the chief commentator and the assistant commentator and you will notice that they do not always see eye to eye.
What about extra officials – should this be an option? I saw the additional ‘assistant referees’ standing behind the pitch in the Europa League and they made a reasonable contribution but they do not eliminate the risk of human error, which is the fundamental problem that is being discussed.
At the current moment in time, football is stuck in the dark ages and in danger of losing its credibility. Such is the sheer volume and regularity of incorrect decisions, they now form the main discussion points every weekend. That said, a complete move to technology aided decisions would totally remove tradition from the game which is not what fans want. The implementation of goal-line technology is a must if football is to thrive as a 21st century sport.