Bringing the game into the 21st century

by Joseph Bush

Thursday, April 18th, 2013


Football’s governing body, FIFA, recently announced that goal line technology will be introduced for this summer’s Confederations Cup in Brazil. With FIFA having finally opened the door to technology, surely now is the time for the game to open its arms and fully embrace it in a way that so many other sports have to their advantage over the last ten years.

For too long the rule makers of our beautiful game have resembled ostriches burying their heads in the sand at the mention of phrases like ‘goal line technology’. Indeed, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, was a long time opposer of technology until he was forced to stare the facts in the face and perform a U-turn following England’s ‘goal’ that never was against Germany during the last World Cup.

Whereas other sports have been far more pro-active when it comes to technology, the football powers that be have always seemed to view it as some sort of ‘dark art’ that couldn’t be trusted and would take something away from the fast, free-flowing spectacle that we currently cherish.

However, far from detracting from the game, the use of technology has been of huge benefit to every other sport in which it has been used – without exception – and has in fact enhanced the viewing experience. Think of the atmosphere in the stadium when a run-out decision is referred to the third umpire in cricket, or when a video replay is used to determine whether a try has been scored in rugby. The tension of the whole ground builds and builds as the spectators await the decision to be shown on the big screens. It makes for gripping sporting theatre.

Imagine a similar system employed in football, where referees (who are miked-up anyway), check ‘upstairs’ on the legality of a goal. Surely it can only add to the atmosphere and spectacle of the game?

And why stop there? If it was taken to another level, the use of video replays could help stamp out one of the worst parts of the game – namely diving. If a number of ‘challenges/referrals’ were introduced (similar to those used in tennis and cricket) for big decisions i.e. penalties, goals and red cards, it would almost stamp out diving over night.

To use an example, earlier this season Arsenal defeated West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium – a game which included a hotly disputed penalty where (on replay evidence) it was clearly, quickly and easily shown that Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla dived in the penalty area and had not even been touched by opposing defender Stephen Reid. This earned his side a spot kick, from which Mikel Arteta duly scored – much to West Brom’s annoyance – prompting lengthy post-match debate, calls for stricter punishments for players who dabble in simulation and increased criticism of officials. In my view, scenarios like this are completely avoidable.

Had WBA had the option to ‘challenge’ a penalty decision, then the offender, Stephen Reid, knowing he had made no contact with Cazorla, would have immediately called for a review, and during the time it had taken for WBA to dispute the penalty, and Arteta to subsequently score it, a fourth official could have reviewed the decision and overturned it. Clearly a side would have a finite amount of reviews (perhaps three per match) and an unsuccessful review would result in it being lost (as is the case in cricket and tennis). This would obviously prevent teams from appealing against every decision as a matter of course.

As a result, diving in the box would become almost completely pointless as, in the example, simulation would be easily spotted and the guilty culprit given a yellow card (as is stated in the rules currently), not to mention being ‘named and shamed’ on the spot. In the example, had the penalty not been awarded, Cazorla would have been loathe to ask for a review, as he would have known full well that a video replay would have shown him to be guilty of simulation, thus earning him a yellow card and resulting in his team losing a review – which would hardly endear himself to his manager, his team mates or supporters.

Teams (or more precisely team captains) would clearly have to think about what and when they review as an incorrect referral would result in the team losing a challenge that they may need later in the match. Diving to win penalties, or to get an opposition player booked or sent off, has blighted the game for decades. Introducing this system would render diving as having no positive outcome whatsoever for the offending player and that has to be a good thing.

In this day and age of digital technology, social media and smart phones and tablets, it’s ironic to think that if a glaring error has been made by the official, he or she is usually the last to know. By the time Arteta had scored the afore mentioned dubious penalty, everyone at home sitting in the comfort of their arm chairs, knew full well that the penalty should never have been awarded in the first place. Surely it’s a strange world if the one person who should have access to the technology is the one person who is denied it!

Ultimately introducing this system would lead to more of the big decisions in a match being correct, so pundits could spend their time talking more about the game rather than contentious incidents, and managers would not longer spend their post match interviews lambasting referees – earning them some much needed respect in the process.

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  • Philip

    Spot on, great article. I’m all for it. Although the lower leagues might not have the budget to install it?

  • Mystical Mike

    it will help, but as Philip has already pointed out what happens at grass roots level?

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