Technology in Football
By: Adam Alexander
In a recent interview on CNN, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was asked about the introduction of video technology to professional football. The technology is designed to assist the referee by accurately telling him the exact movements of the ball and which lines it crossed. As usual his views were not in favor of its introduction and his reasons rather vague and a bit unconstructive, especially considering the advantages it offers. Mr. Blatter said that he will support the technology but only when it is “accurate and non-complicated”.
He speaks of the two options that FIFA have considered, and why neither of them is good enough. Firstly there’s the system that uses a chip in the ball to track it, which is the most accurate “but it is so complicated”. Other problems are that Adidas developed the
Photo from fOTOGLIF
system and other manufacturers would need rights to it and the complications arising from the radio waves that are needed for it to work, the installations around the field for them, and that they could be interrupted.
The alternative is the Hawkeye system that uses cameras to track the ball. The problem here is obviously that when their view of the ball is impaired, such as in a crowded penalty area, then the cameras can’t see what is happening.
I have an alternative option though. When there’s a big moment in a game, such as Thierry Henry’s handball that resulted in a French goal against the Irish or Bayern Munich’s Miroslav Klose being blatantly offside when he scored against Fiorentina, then the referee can just give me a call. I’m sitting on my couch at home watching the replay in slow motion on my TV, seeing exactly what happened.
It often happens that from many different angles, the millions of viewers all over the world, with the help of an assortment of cleverly placed camera’s, can tell whether a ball crossed the line for a goal or not (or view any other controversial decision), but the only person the referee is allowed to look to for help is standing on the side of the pitch, sometimes trying to look through about fifteen players and a metal post.
My point is that the many cameras around the big stadiums are all the technology that they need.
The main argument against consulting a video replay is that it will slow down the game. But obviously they won’t be used for every decision, just the big ones. They are able to use it in rugby, where an unsure referee can get help with the tight calls such as the ones that either were, or were not, a try. The football referee would consult the replay just for penalty claims, dubious goals, and red card tackles and other big decisions, making the call and its impact on the game fair.
It could also improve the game in other ways. Diving has become a big problem, with players faking contact to win a penalty. Video replays could show whether a foul was committed or not, and the player would receive a yellow card for simulation if he was trying to fool the officials. The same would happen with dangerous tackles and off-the-ball nonsense; they would be a lot more difficult to get away with.
Another aspect of the game which the technology could help to enforce fairly is the offside rule. Assistant referees on the sidelines have to make very tight calls. If a player is suspected of being offside then the referee can let them play on, see what happens, and then consult the replay. Again this would only be used if the linesman can’t be sure and if a goal or penalty or other notable event followed the offside shout.
There could also be the introduction of a system like the one used in tennis, where a player is allowed to challenge decision’s a limited number of times. There could be a rule that only team captain’s and\or managers would be able to do this. If the team knows the decision made by the referee to be incorrect it can be challenged, if they are wrong then, just like in tennis, they lose the ability to challenge later in the game, meaning the players will only exercise this ability for important decisions and when they are certain that they are correct.
This would solve another problem in the game: players surrounding the referee and protesting. This slows down the game (even more so than watching a replay) and is intended to put pressure of the referee to favor the complaining team in future decisions. This would stop because the complaining team and their manager have an ultimatum: officially challenge the decision or leave the officials alone and get on with the game.
With the benefits of technology obvious and numerous those who still oppose it have a very thin argument.
As a football fan I want to see it become as fair as possible but, for one reason or another, it seems that the people at FIFA don’t want, or know, what is best for the game. It’s time for them to move forward.