Of all the sticks used to beat Sepp Blatter with, including allegations of corruption, cronyism and downright incompetence, both the least justifiable and the most tiresomely predictable is FIFA’s failure to adopt goal line technology.
Proponents for change see it as an essentially unarguable point, an unavoidable next step on the way to eradicating the influence of human error over a match’s outcome. Yet if football’s administrators were to make such a concession, it would serve only to undermine rather than aid the officials whose benefit it is purportedly for.
After each round of fixtures we are currently treated to the same line-up of familiar managerial faces either railing against unjust decisions or professing relief over getting that little bit of luck they deserve, depending upon which way the result has gone. A manager’s appraisal of the referee’s performance has never knowingly been noted for its sense of proportion, perspective or impartiality, but in a sporting culture where players must be shielded from criticism at all costs, they are forever drawing attention to refereeing errors in order to explain away their own team’s shortcomings.
Complaints against the inconsistency of officials’ decision-making, especially concerning the punishment meted out for two-footed tackles, has become a staple source of manufactured outrage and controversy in recent weeks, especially since Vincent Kompany’s red card in the Manchester derby. Yet this highly subjective area of the game, which is inevitably prey to personal interpretation, could become the next target for video referrals should they be introduced to deal with supposedly more clear-cut cases like whether a goal should be given or not.
If we’ve survived just fine without goal line technology up until this point, why is its introduction any more critical now? This can be attributed to a misplaced belief that the occasional mistake is somehow of greater consequence since football has become the endlessly over-analyzed, financially-bloated behemoth it now is. The mantra for football’s new seriousness seems to be much like that of the recent Sky Bet advertisement, which depressingly asserted that the result “matters more when there’s money on it”.
The suggestion that with football’s enhanced status there is now too much money at stake for the occasional wrong call, and that technology should be brought in to deal with these tragic imperfections, is a perfect example of approaching an issue the wrong way round. To me the idea that a goal line decision could matter so much signals that the money involved is the problem, rather than the means of making such a decision, and that we should tackle the warped mentality responsible for deeming any football result to be of such earth-shattering importance to begin with.
Instead, the introduction of technology would merely feed into football’s sense of its own significance, while irritation over offsides or penalty decisions, which occur far more often than any qualms over whether the ball has crossed the line, would continue unabated until they too became the subject of in-game video analysis. The problem is only exacerbated by the media’s incessant courting of controversy and the overbearing demands of pundits and fans in search of an unattainable perfection.
That technology is yet to encroach on the game of football should be a source of pride, proving that for all the upheaval it has undergone it remains fundamentally the same sport from grass roots level to the very top. This state of affairs would only be threatened by the arrival of prohibitively expensive technology, widening the gulf between the haves and the have-nots of league football even further, so that games in the Premiership would, quite literally, take place on a different playing field altogether.