The Technology Debate: An Objective View

Alex KlymyszynCorrespondent IApril 26, 2009

LONDON - FEBRUARY 08:  Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on February 8, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

So here we go again, the old debate about technology in football has reared its ugly head again. After the penalty given to Manchester United yesterday, which started off their comeback from 2-0 down, Harry Redknapp called for video technology to be used in decision making.

As a man who has watched more sport from around the world than is probably healthy I can firmly say, "Harry, it won't work so don't bother".

I say that as I write this article from my beach house on Candy Apple island watching the tide roll in. Or at least that's where I would be if technology was as perfect as every losing manager would have you believe. In truth, I write this while looking out my window on a cold miserable Midlands April evening.

Unfortunately for me however I know that somewhere there'll be someone who likes this kind of evening and thinks they're quite nice.

Here we have the problem with technology and moments like the one at Old Trafford, it's all a question of opinion. Personally i don't have a problem with the principle of technology, but only for cut and dried, decisive decisions. Goal-line technology for example is well overdue in football, but that involves a simply answer. Did the whole of the ball cross the line, Yes or No?

There's no halfway house in the decision making process.

American Football, rugby (league especially), and cricket have been pioneers of video technology, but even they have encountered violent waters when we come to matters of opinion and interpretation. The infamous "Tuck Rule" and matters over control of possession have caused endless debate in the NFL, while the referral trial in cricket has caused just as many contentious decisions as it aimed to eradicate.

Countless times I've watched a rugby league game to see a video referral decision over interference with an opposition player or grounding of the ball go against not just my judgement, but those of the commentators and seemingly most of those at the ground.

Joe Buck is far from most people's favourite NFL or MLB broadcaster, but he once made a very salient point about how technology can mislead. When judging whether an American Football receiver has gained full control of the ball or not before losing it, slow motion replays aide the appearance of control as the receiver appears to hold onto the ball for longer. 

The nature of the replay makes us believe that more time has elapsed than actually did, and that the player held onto the ball for longer than they actually did.    

Just because Howard Webb had another chance to look at the challenge wouldn't have automatically meant that he would've changed his decision. It could just be that his interpretation of a foul in the penalty area is different to Harry's.

Even if he did change his mind, the cynical amongst us would then wonder if the referee has it in him to stand in front of 70,000 baying fans at Old Trafford and explain that he made a slight error!  

Bringing the fourth official into it would simply complicate matters further. Then he is making a judgement on the opinion of someone who has a different opinion to that of a player or manager.

Too many viewpoints cause too many problems and that would lead to just as many bad calls. Some bad decisions would still stand and some good ones would be overturned, that unfortunately is the nature of the beast.

If it's a simple, "was the ball or man over the line?" then technology works. If it's a matter of interpretation and opinion then technology can cause just as much debate as it aims to solve.