Thursday, 20 May 2010

Say NO to video evidence in football

Welcoming Simon Manuel to the Soccermongery writers parade - and what a debut! He's with FIFA all the way on rejecting the use of video evidence. Here's the nightmare scenario.

It’s Sunday 13 July 2014. The World Cup Final at The Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro. England v Germany.

It’s the last minute of extra time with the teams locked at 2-2 and England substitute Daniel Sturridge is clean through on the German goal. As he’s poised to shoot the referee blows his whistle and brings play back. Germany have called for their last video referral.

They’re claiming a goal after Lukas Podolski’s snap shot cannoned off the bar and bounced towards the line moments before 'keeper Joe Hart’s long clearance released Sturridge. Germany are convinced they’ve scored but England are also considering a referral as video evidence has revealed that the corner that led to Podolski’s shot should have been a goal kick after brushing a German boot on the way out.

After viewing video replays from 9 different angles over 4 minutes the goal line evidence is inconclusive and play resumes with a drop ball in the centre circle. The match peters out and the Germans go on to win on penalties.


Far fetched? Maybe the bit about England getting to the World Cup final but the video referral? Not if FIFA bows to the views of the likes of Arsene Wenger, Terry Venables, Mark Hughes and Alex McLeish to name but four of the managers calling for football to follow the likes of cricket, rugby league and American football and use video technology in some form or other.

After Thierry Henry’s infamous handball knocked the Republic of Ireland out of the World Cup, Wenger insisted that referees can't cope and need external help: "Football accepts that a billion people see it, one guy doesn't see it and it is the one who prevails. It cannot work,"
Last Saturday, after his Birmingham side were denied an 81st minute goal after Liam Ridgewell’s header was adjudged not to have crossed the line, manager Alex McLeish said: “In key moments like that, they are actually doing the officials a disservice by not using [video technology]”.
Ironically, McLeish’s rant came on the same day that FIFA announced that they'd ruled out the introduction of video technology to assist officials during games thereby ending all further experiments with goal-line technology. Most of the response of the press was that this was just another example of how out of step FIFA is with what football fans really want. The Daily Telegraph’s headline read “What are FIFA’s technophobes afraid of” and sarcastically mocked FIFA by suggesting that FIFA thought football was already perfect and couldn’t be improved.
Football isn’t perfect but I think FIFA’s decision is nothing less than the saviour of the game we love. If goal line technology was introduced it wouldn’t be long before teams were allowed a set number of video reviews similar to those already in place in American football and recently introduced in cricket – farcically in the case of the non dismissal of Graeme Smith in the final England v South Africa test match in Johannesburg.
FIFA’s main reason for rejecting technology in football is that it would disrupt the flow of the game. Of that there can be no doubt. The great genius of football is the fact that the game can change so quickly. Brian Clough famously said it only takes a second to score a goal. He was only exaggerating a bit. Wayne Rooney’s brilliant goal against Arsenal at The Emirates this season was scored a mere 9.2 seconds after Ji-Sung Park had won the ball in his own penalty area.
Advocates of technology say that the money in the game means you have to move with the times and that’s it’s too important not to use because football is now big business.

But football isn’t about money, it’s about sport. That’s the whole point of it. It’s not the fact that football is big business that makes us go straight to the back page of the newspaper every morning or tune to Sky Sports news every time we turn on the TV. And it’s not because football is big business that people like Southampton fan Vince Reeves recently risked missing the birth of his first child so that he could keep his place in the queue to get tickets for the recent 5th round FA Cup match against Portsmouth.
Football isn’t real life, it’s a long running soap opera that brings out every human emotion: joy, despair, frustration, deceit, respect, love, fear….the list is endless. It appeals to us on an instinctive level. A teams of humans against another team of humans officiated by humans.
The call for technology is just an attempt to bring football into real life. To bring order to chaos, to impose the CCTV culture of our age onto sport. FIFA should be applauded for standing firm against this. What makes football so compelling is its innate unpredictability. Maradona’s “hand of god” and the referee’s failure to spot it are as much part of the game as the sublime goal that followed.
Football teaches teamwork, loyalty and discipline but most of all it teaches everyone who has ever watched or played a game that football, like life, is not fair. Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. You can appeal to a higher being, in football the referee, and sometimes he answers your prayers and sometimes he doesn’t. On occasion he get’s it plain wrong just like in life the big man upstairs doesn’t help when your wife runs off with your best mate or your prized BMW gets nicked.
Pundits on TV say things like the referee “should” have awarded a penalty or free-kick or a player “should” have passed or “should” have scored. It’s as if there is a blueprint that ought to be followed. One day a game will be played when technology will make sure that every refereeing decision is correct, every pass will be perfect and every chance that “should” be scored will go in. It will be the most perfect game ever, and also the most boring. Football will have died.
Fast forward again to the Maracana. The referee hasn’t blown and Sturridge coolly rounds the keeper and slots the ball into an empty net. England have won the World Cup for the first time in 48 years. Video replays show that Sturridge was marginally offside when he received the ball but hey, that’s football.
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