No Goal-Line Technology, Why Not Still Kick a Pig's Bladder Around?

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No Goal-Line Technology, Why Not Still Kick a Pig's Bladder Around?
(Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Anyone watching the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Everton on television this past weekend probably came to the same conclusion: Football needs goal-line technology to be introduced.

From the comfort of your sofa, you would have clearly seen that when Malouda shot from a distance, the ball clearly looked like it crossed the line. On the pitch, however, the view was very different. It would not be fair to blame either the referee or any of his assistants for missing the goal as even the commentators completely misjudged it.

What's amazing is that the debate about goal-line technology has been going on in  earnest for a very long time, but it appears than we are no closer to it being introduced.

In 2005 FIFA, under Sepp Blatter's presidency, agreed to tests being conducted at the U-17 world championships. The form of goal line technology used involved microchips in the ball that activate a message being sent to a watch the referee wears, when the ball crosses the line.

After the tournament, Blatter stated, "The evidence wasn't clear so we will carry out trials... at the 2007 World Club Championship."

This is exactly what they did. Then at the annual IFAB (International Football Associations Board—the body that governs the rules of football) meeting in 2009, they halted any further progress regarding goal-line technology.

Blatter explained the decision by saying that the microchipped ball had failed in one of the seven World Club Championship matches due to interference to the signal sent to the referee and that it would be difficult to implement the chip technology in the many types of football used around the world.

Instead, a decision was made to pursue a new scheme using two extra assistant referees behind the goals, an idea put forward by Platini (the President of UEFA).

In March 2009, Blatter clarified the official position on goal-line technology, saying: "The IFAB believes that football is a game for human beings and, as such, we should improve the standard of refereeing—and not turn to technology."

Throughout the whole process of investigating the use of goal-line technology, a major condition was that it should be goal-line technology and nothing else. Meaning that it should be an electronic confirmation system and in no way involve any kind of video footage replay. This is clearly where the real issues lie.

Blatter and Platini are clearly part of a camp that vehemently opposes the introduction of video replays to the profesional game. Goal-line technology, especially any that uses video cameras, is seen as a step towards the introduction of video replays being used to make refereeing decisions throughout a match. 

This should have been clear from the beginning, when they showed a preference for the Cairos system (that uses intraball microchips) over the English FA and Premier league backed Hawk-Eye system.

The Hawk-Eye system for goal-line technology uses six cameras in the stadium that are used to triangulate the position of the ball in three dimensions, it can also be used to calculate (using physics) the future path of the ball.

The strange thing about that choice of preference is the fact that it's Hawk-Eye that has been used in other high profile professional sports for a while now, not the Cairos/Addidas one. It's notably used in tennis where it forms part of the adjudication process.

Blatter rejected the Hawk-Eye system, stating that: "You cannot ensure it works when there are a bunch of players inside the goal mouth and you cannot see the ball, or when there is poor visibility."

Dr. Paul Hawkins (the founder and managing director of Hawk-Eye) clearly disagrees. After the 2009 IFAB meeting, he said:

"Blatter said he was concerned about our technology because if a flare went off in a stadium, it might get in the way of one of our cameras. Firstly, that's ridiculous, and, secondly, that's the reason we have six cameras. Have you ever known a televised game where a goal can't be shown because a flare has blocked a camera angle?"

The proposed extra goal-line assistants systems will obviously help, but can it ever be as good as an accurate technological answer?

It's quite clear that the decisions on goal-line technology have been influenced by a fear of the introduction of video replays becoming part of the refereeing system. What is the problem with this possibility, anyway?

According to UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson: "Video-refereeing would stop the flow of the game...This would also open up windows for further commercials in the middle of the match, which would damage its image, and secondly this would lead to a referee's authority being undermined."

The fact is that video-refereeing has been a success in professional rugby. It actually helps to empower the referees rather than undermine them.

As for creating delays in play, much more time is spent watching overpaid footballers put on amateur dramatic performances when they get the slightest tap than is spent waiting for video replay decisions in rugby.

The truth about the block on goal-line technology probably comes down to that quote from Blatter: "Football is a game for human beings and, as such, we should improve the standard of refereeing—and not turn to technology."

If that really is the viewpoint, then perhaps they should consider looking into banning referees using watch technology or at least block new technological advancements in this area.

Perhaps more than that, they should look into reversing the advancements in ball technology and revert back to using pigs' bladders.

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