The Great Debate: Should Video Technology Be Introduced In Football?
It has been just three days since Thierry Henry used his hand to help send France through to the 2010 World Cup, but already it has passed into international folklore.
The furore surrounding the incident has been unprecedented, and has raised a number of questions to which many are demanding answers.
One long-running debate it has re-opened is about the use of video technology.
This argument seems to be raised numerous times each season, but still nothing has been done to implement the idea.
UEFA President Michel Platini has expressed his views on the matter, saying that football is a "human game", in which mistakes are inevitable. With such a stubborn man in a position of power, the chances of a change in the foreseeable future are slim.
However, the number of incidents suggesting video technology is the future of football seem to be rising, with the most recent being the hand of Henry.
As with all suggestions, though, there are pros and cons to introducing this into football.
The main arguments for technology are simple. It works in other sports, such as rugby, cricket, and tennis, and it would severely reduce the level of mistakes made by the officials which, in turn, will ease the pressure on them.
The referee will know that, if he is not 100 percent sure about a decision, he can refer it to the video ref who can make the correct call after watching numerous replays.
The main excuse for a referee mistake is that he only has a split second to make his decision, and can only view the incident from one angle.
The extra official trial currently taking place in the Europa League goes some way to addressing this issue, but video technology would end it altogether.
However, this raises a host of questions.
What circumstances would there have to be in order for the referee to call on the video replay? Would the ball have to be dead and the play stopped?
If so, what would happen if a team has a shot which they think has gone over the line but bounced back into play? The referee wouldn't be able to ask the video assistant until the next time the ball goes out of play, which raises yet more questions.
What happens if the opposition goes up the other end and score before the ball goes dead again? Would the referee look at the video evidence, see the ball did actually cross the line and award the original team the goal while disallowing the other?
Or does he stop play immediately, risking preventing the team another chance in any ensuing melee and significantly slowing the pace of the game down?
To think that the most straight forward use of the system raises so many questions is a small indication of how drastically the introduction of such measures would change the sport.
If we were to take rugby's example, then the video ref would only be required for goal-line incidents.
In rugby the system is used to check the grounding of the ball or whether or not the player was in touch when going for a try.
Given the reaction to the Henry incident, however, this would not be substantial enough for football.
The handball was unprofessional behavior in open play, and wouldn't have been referred to the video ref under the rugby usage. It was akin to throwing a forward pass or deliberately blocking a defender to create the try.
If the Henry incident was sent to be looked at again, then where do we draw the line?
If handballs are called into question alongside goal-line incidents then the flow of the game would be really disrupted. Not to mention the inevitable calls for it to be implemented for offsides too.
The pace of a football game is often it's most intriguing factor. A match blighted by stoppages usually amounts to a poor spectacle, while a free-flowing, open game provides quite the opposite.
It has been suggested that only the "big" decisions should be handed over to the video ref, but what constitutes as "big" decisions?
Are they only those which happen inside the penalty area? If so, what happens when a player is wrongly penalised on the edge of the box, and his team concede from the resulting free-kick?
It ended in a goal, so the decision must have been a big one. Even if the free-kick was on the half-way line and a goal still materialised, the choice to award the free-kick would have been a dubious one.
But if those free-kicks had amounted to nothing, the decisions suddenly become irrelevant.
The difference between "big" decisions and irrelevant decisions often comes with the result and consequences of said decisions and, unless the referee were to ask his video watching colleague after the outcome, how is he to know which are the "big" decisions he is meant to refer?
If video technology is to be introduced, it would have to be done all over the pitch which would inevitably harm the pace of the game.
Another problem these proposed measures may encounter is the common, and vital trait of all referees.
The officials in the France vs. Ireland match obviously didn't see anything untoward with Gallas' goal, so they are unlikely to succumb to the protests of the Irish players.
Opposition players almost always argue the decisions of the referee, but the official never changes his mind. Perhaps the dishonest nature of footballers has come back to haunt them in this sense.
If the referee was convinced Gallas' goal was valid, he isn't going to listen to the Irish complaints that it wasn't, and therefore the video ref wouldn't be called into play anyway.
Another issue raised in this debate is the entertainment factor of football. I've already mentioned the fact that the pace of the game could be seriously affected, but you also need to look at the factor of controversy and talking points in games.
It may not be the case when your team is involved, but these type of incidents create a spark of entertainment within football. There are other means, yes, but few wonder-goals can compete with the level of debate Henry's handball has caused.
The "water-cooler effect" suggests that viewers go into work or school the next day and talk about the incidents that occurred.
Fewer controversial incidents could lead to less talk and buzz about the game, less excitement and outrage surrounding incidents, and fewer strong opinions about such moments.
The Germans still talk in hushed tones about Geoff Hurst's second goal, and England's third in the 1966 World Cup final. The English speak in much the same way about Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal 30 years later.
For once, I think I agree with Platini; football is a human game, and unless someone can come up with a faultless video technology plan, I think it should remain that way.
The beautiful game has existed for well over a century without such measures, and has thrived into the most popular sport in the world.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, as the saying goes.
Some may argue that football is "broke", but it isn't. No sport is perfect and, in striving for perfection you risk losing what made it so popular in the first place.
An error-less, machine-run game sounds a lot less appealing to me. I like the talking points, and I like the controversy football brings.
Think of a football world without Henry's handball, without Diego Maradona's "Hand of God", and without Geoff Hurst's goal. Sounds dull and boring, doesn't it?
Bringing in video technology would be a step in the right direction to eliminate the natural human error, but a step in the wrong direction in regards to the excitement football brings and everything that made the sport so great.
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