In the wake of the disastrously handled Tevez off-side goal (why stand right next to the offending linesman? isn’t that always going to inflame the situation?) as well as the Lampard disallowed goal last night, it is easy to accept the popular wisdom that it is now time for football and the FIFA governing body to embrace technology. An SMH web poll had support for video technology in football at 90%.
Easy argument to make right now, yeah? But is it truly in the best interests of the game?
Since the result last night, ITV (a British broadcaster) requested comment from FIFA, who pointed to the statement by Blatter, back in March, when he said:
‘No matter which technology is applied, at the end of the day a decision will have to be made by a human being. This being the case, why remove the responsibility from the referee and give it to someone else?
Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of our sport.’
And while that’s an argument falls short of being relentlessly compelling, are there perfectly justifiable reasons that make the stance against technological adoption defensible?
Quick tangent – Hey, FIFA. If every move you make seems to come from a basis of maintaining the historical integrity of the game (a noble concept), can’t we have rule that for the World Cup, the ball has to have been in play, in elite competition, somewhere, for over 10 years, for the ball to be even considered. How about we work out any possible kinks over a 10 year period and not on football’s biggest stage, once every 4 years. Trust me adidas. People will still buy your ball. Thanks in advance.
Here are the Top 10 points against the adoption of technology.
1) Football, at it’s best, is a flowing endeavour.
The introduction of a video assistant, with debatable layers of scope, will only prevent flow. Whatever system is initially introduced will reduce the number of goal-line errors, sure, but where do you stop? What about penalty decisions? They also have a massive impact on the game, are we looking at the video in game time to see what level of contact there is? Or do we put it in the too hard basket? What about a second yellow that leads to a send off? That’s a game altering decision too. Once you open pandora’s box there’s no telling what will be unleashed.
2) Football has never been about justice.
If you’re looking for it here, you’ve come to the wrong place. The, so called, ‘better’ team wins less often in football than in any other team sport imaginable. If it were truly just, wouldn’t the best team never get beaten? Wouldn’t the team who created the best opportunities, who played in the best spirits of the game be never defeated?
3) It will irrevocably inhibit the passion released in celebrations.
Both by fans and players. Waiting, waiting, waiting, and ……. no goal. Waiting, waiting, waiting, and ……. goal. Where’s the passion and excitement in that?
4) Is tennis any more popular than before it introduced hawk-eye?
Has one person ever said, ‘I wasn’t that into tennis, but when hawk-eye was introduced, I became an avid fan’? Has that happened anywhere? Has the fact that, there are basically no bad calls in tennis, led to the diminished drama created by a McEnroe/Conners-type charismatic character challenging authority? And this in a sport where the technology works perfectly.
5) Bad decisions happen.
They happen in life. Sometimes you are the root cause (a defensive lapse like what happened to Osorio) but just as often unjust decisions are imposed upon you by a boss, spouse or parent (or a referee). Is it fair? No. But neither’s life, you suck it up and do the best you can. If the will and talent are powerful enough, success will follow.
6) It’s gotten to the point that it’s now a USP (unique selling proposition).
It’s the last sport hanging onto the human element. It’s bold. And even a little beautiful.
7) People love to be able to make excuses for poor performance.
Yes. Those decisions last night had a massive, massive impact on the outcome of both games. But they also sheltered both teams, to a degree, from criticism for their performance. The ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ story of history is endlessly fascinating because there are never definitive answers. That’s what makes it engaging.
8) People love conspiracies.
The Blatter defense. They make for good yarns. They became a part of folklore, a part of the rich tapestry of society. Overcoming obstacles, particularly by humans, is at the core of any great drama. It’s just how it is. It’s also part of the reason that the World Cup is a bigger television event than Robot Wars.
9) Have you seen how petulant football players as a species are?
They are insufferable when a decision goes against them and have so little respect for the referee on the field as it is. And somehow encouraging them to be more petulant, in challenging the competence of a referee, is a good idea?
10) The product is so good, it’s the most popular sport in the world, it can survive anything.
Poor decisions made by humans, the worst acting imaginable, utter disrespect of the referees, violent crowd behaviour, incessant vuvuzelalaring, people are still hooked.
Apparently the cost to FIFA to post a dude at each end of the field to give advice to the referee about whether a ball has crossed the line would cost £500 a game. Would they still get decisions wrong? Sure. But it would be less, they’d be humans relying on human instinctual reactions and it wouldn’t interrupt the flow of the game or integrity of the main referee.
Sounds like a winning proposal. If only FIFA could afford it.