Goal-line Technology moves one step closer

In the past two days, IFAB (the International Football Associations Board) held a meeting in Surrey, England. IFAB is the board responsible for rule-making in football. IFAB consists of one representative from the FA, one from the SFA (Scottish FA), one from the FAW (the Welsh FA), one from the IFA (representing Northern Ireland) and four representatives from FIFA.

The big headline-catching rule debated was to do with the possible introduction of goal-line technology. IFAB debated whether or not to press on with trials of various systems of goal-line technology competing for what would be a very lucrative contract. The outcome has been that two out of the eight systems, Hawk-Eye (a system which uses optical recognition using cameras and already used in Tennis, Cricket and other sports) and GoalRef (which uses a magnetic field with a special ball) have been selected for a second phase of testing with a final decision to be made at the next IFAB meeting to be held in Edinburgh on July 2.

The first phase of testing, which was a basic test of ‘does the technology work?’, has already happened, so the systems which passed that will move on to phase two. This is testing the technology in a variety of different conditions, such as weather and altitude, to make sure one system can be universally applied, as well as a more rigorous test as to the accuracy of the technology.

The possible introduction of technology into football is a move that has been wanted by many people involved with the game, and fans, for a long time. Football is a game that relies on humans to make the important decisions within games. The indisputable fact is that people make mistakes, and there have been occasions where referees and assistants have missed the ball crossing the line and goals have incorrectly not been awarded. There was an example only this week where Milan’s Sulley Muntari had a goal incorrectly not awarded against Juventus.

It does have to be noted that referees get it right far more often than they make a mistake. It is reckoned that a referee makes a decision every 12 seconds in a match. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL), the body which represents referee’s in England recently claimed that a study has shown their referees get decisions right 92.3% of the time, with assistant referees getting it right 99.3% of the time.

Now, these figures do have to be taken with a pinch of salt as PGMOL hasn’t revealed how it conducted its study, or made it public, but it is an indication there is some statistical evidence to support the opinion that on the whole, referee’s do a good job. Negative opinions about the state of modern refereeing stem from the fact that because of increased TV coverage, any mistake made by a referee or assistant is replayed over and over again, thus creating an often false perception about the competence, or lack thereof, of certain referees, or refereeing as a whole.

After the incident at the World Cup in 2010 where England’s Frank Lampard had a goal incorrectly not awarded against Germany, I posted on why I don’t agree with the introduction of technology in football. That opinion hasn’t changed. Honestly, how many times has there been an incident, where goal-line technology would have been required? Try and think of some off the top of your head now. I’ll be impressed if you can get into double figures.

This is my point. I think the introduction of goal-line technology is a total overreaction which may lead to the introduction of an expensive, over-engineered solution to a relatively rare situation. I concede that, if the technology works properly, then there is no harm done, but this is going to cost vast sums of money to implement, money that I think could be better spent within the game.

It seems strange to me that his solution is finding enough favour with FIFA that it is being so seriously considered, when video replays (which I also oppose), which would do everything that goal-line technology would do, and a lot more at a lower cost, are completely opposed by Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini and many of the top brass in FIFA.

Goals not awarded due to an official missing the ball crossing the line are an injustice when it happens and make all of the headlines. But to me it is no more of an injustice than the series of little mistakes referees make that go under the radar, such as incorrect awarding of free-kicks (or not), which team a throw-in should be awarded to, etc. that when accumulated, can often make much more of a difference than one single decision. So if FIFA and IFAB want to eliminate injustices due to refereeing decisions, why are they restricting themselves to correcting a mistake that will only happen once in a blue moon?

Platini is known to be an advocate of the Additional Assistant Referee (AAR) experiment instead of using technology. This experiment, which sees two additional assistants, one at each end of the pitch, is currently being used in UEFA competitions. This experiment will continue and the final decision whether or not AAR should be implemented worldwide will also be made on July 2.

Some of the other rule changes introduced included rules on the positioning of advertising boards around the pitch, the introduction of a vanishing spray to help referees spot encroachment of free-kicks, the four UK associations can experiment with the possible introduction of rolling substitutes in amateur games after FIFA withdrew a proposal to allow a fourth substitution in extra-time, and there was a decision on the hot-button topic of whether any additional tape used on socks must be the same colour as the sock, with tape now having to match the sock.

There was also a welcome move in the right direction to allow female Muslim footballers to play wearing a hijab (a headscarf), with the proposal being agreed to in principle, pending a health and safety review, following a presentation from Prince Ali of Jordan. The hope is that by allowing hijabs to be worn, it will remove a significant obstacle to any female Muslims wishing to play.