Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Goal Line Technology? Yes, please!

The debate for goal line technology has raised its ugly head again after Ukraine were denied a certain goal against England in their final Group D clash last week.

Ukraine needed a victory to go through to the Quarter-Finals but fell behind shortly after half-time. After 60 minutes the ball fell to Marko Devic and he managed to get a shot past England goalkeeper, Joe Hart and the ball was looping towards goal. John Terry acrobatically dived, swung a foot at the ball and managed to clear it. It was a superb clearance from the former England captain but when television replays looked at the incident it became apparent that the ball had crossed the line. Quite how the goal line assistant managed to miss it is a mystery.

This debate is not a new thing. Ever since Geoff Hurst in 1966, and probably before it, there have been debates about balls crossing or not crossing the line in key matches. This season alone there have been three high profile examples were goal line technology could have been used to rule on cases were the referee got the decision wrong.

In the FA Cup, Chelsea, the eventual winners benefited from two huge decisions in the Semi-Final and the Final.

In the Semi-Final they led 1-0 at half-time. Just after the restart Juan Mata had a shot which came back out after a goal mouth scramble involving Ledley King, Benoit Essou-Akotto and John Terry. The referee decided the ball had gone across the line but the television cameras suggested otherwise. Chelsea went onto win this game 5-1 but the importance of that "ghost goal" can not be underestimated.

Tottenham players will have received instructions from manager Harry Redknapp on how to get back into the game, just 4 minutes later they were 2-0 down and it wasn't even a goal. Tottenham were forced to go chasing the game after that and Chelsea picked them off to move on to the FA Cup Final.

In that FA Cup Final, with the score at 2-1 to Chelsea, Liverpool striker, Andy Carroll rose to meet a cross and his header was clawed back out by Petr Cech. When the replays were shown it looked as though the ball was right on the line but on further inspection Petr Cech's hand was not in contact with the ball. This would suggest that the whole ball had in fact crossed the line and the game would have been level and approaching extra-time. As it was Chelsea hang on for the remaining minutes and secured another FA Cup.

In the Premier League, Clint Hill's header was goal bound until Adam Bogdan managed to get across his goal and make a superb stop. The only problem was television replays showed the ball was well over the line by the time Bolton stopper, Bogdan got his hand on it. This was a huge goal, as both teams were in the middle of a relegation battle. Bolton took the much needed 3 points in that game. In the end it was Bolton who went down and QPR managed to stay up but it was tight until the very end and could so easily have gone the other way. Premier League is big business and relegation means the loss of millions of pounds.

Bolton know that better that anyone. Back in 1997, they were denied a goal when Gerry Taggarts shot was cleared “off the line” by Everton’s Terry Phelan. Television replays confirmed the ball was over the line and the game finished 0-0. By the end of the season the league table showed Bolton and Everton level on points with Bolton getting relegated on Goal Difference. If the referee or his assistant had spotted the ball going over the line then Everton would have been relegated in Bolton’s place.

There have been numerous other instances, Roy Carroll dropping the ball behind the line against Tottenham, Luis Garcia’s goal that never was against Chelsea in the Champion’s League Semi-Final and the absolutely shocking goal that was given in a game between Watford and Reading when a Reading shot went out for a goal kick but the referee and his assistant decided the ball had gone into the net.

Needless to say something needs to happen to prevent this in the future. I am absolutely delighted that there is due to be a vote taken in early July to decide on whether goal line technology is to be introduced. Surely there is only one answer here and the IFAB will vote to introduce this technology.

Many of those opposed to Goal Line Technology bring up the argument that it would stop the flow of play. Would a few seconds to get a decision right really stop the flow of a game for that long? Statistics suggest that in an average game the ball is in play for between 60 and 70 minutes. That is one third of a match. Would it really interrupt a game for so long that it wouldn’t be worth getting the decision correct? I imagine if you asked any team who have suffered from this if they feel a short delay is worth it you would get a resounding yes.

Anytime I’ve watched another sport that uses technology to make key decisions it’s always one of the most exciting parts of the game. Whether its cricket, rugby or tennis every time the hawk eye or video ref is called for the excitement in the crowd reaches fever pitch. Could you imagine in the dying minutes of that FA Cup Final at Wembley, Petr Cech claws out Andy Carrolls header and the referee calls for the use of the goal line technology. Suddenly you have a stadium full of frantic fans. 30,000 fans in blue biting their finger nails, with their heads in their hands praying for a reprieve. 30,000 fans in red biting their finger nails and ready to explode in celebration if the decision goes their way. The decision comes through and it’s a goal. One half of the stadium goes into raptures & the other half sink in despair. Who in their right mind does not want a piece of that? Football is one of, if not the best game on the planet. Let’s take a great product and make it even better.

Another argument against technology is, when do we draw the line? Can the referee just refer every dubious decision to the men upstairs?

At this point I’d suggest something similar to the rules applied by the NFL. Every scoring play in American Football is automatically reviewed. After a goal there is always a delay as the scoring team celebrate their goal. Whilst they are celebrating would it be possible for some kind of video referee to view the goal? This would enable referees and their assistants to confirm if they had got offside decisions correct as well as the rare ocassions when there is doubt over a ball crossing the goal line.

Football is now much more than a game and has become a huge industry with billions of pounds at stake. It's very unfair to expect any business to suffer due to an honest mistake made by an individual when the technology is available to guarantee accurate decisions.

In any other business in the world if a product became available that would improve that sport or business, it would be snapped up. Why are we still having this debate? There's only one answer to the problem and the IFAB owe it to football fans all over the world to make the right choice!

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