Goal-line Technology: More good than harm

Blog by: GB Vishwanath

Chelsea v Hull City - Premier League

Officials testing Goal-line Technology at Stamford Bridge

Roughly a week ago, at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, the England FA announced it’s decision to employ goal-line technology at all 20 Premier League clubs from the current season onwards, signalling a long-sought after victory for those who have been consistently lobbying for the arrival of technology, even before Frank Lampard’s perfectly legal goal was disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

It is only natural that one’s mind will travel back to that incident at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, because that is quite naturally, one of the latest high-profile gaffes that has only underlined the need for technology in the beautiful game.

The thought of ‘justice’ is sure to link the Emirates Stadium in England to Bloemfontein in South Africa, but that is only two sides of this metaphorical triangle: I speak here of what is surely the most (in)famous case of ‘the goal that was(n’t)’.

Parallels between Geoff Hurst’s goal in 1966 and Lampard’s disallowed one – both against old enemies Germany – were quickly drawn at the time and it is extremely hard to not get bogged down in such incidents because all of them have laid the foundation in the institution of goal-line technology.

It is well-documented that football, despite being one of the world’s oldest sports, is the last to employ sophisticated technology at games. Tennis and cricket both have hawk-eye, which is incidentally the same moniker that has been given to the EPL’s Goal Decision System, and all of the sports that have originated in America have such measures in place.

There have been many well-documented incidents which have raised the issue of goal-line technology in the past.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has for so long campaigned against the use of technology, saying that it ruined the ‘humanity’ of football, did try to substitute the need for goal line technology with an additional linesman behind each goal in European games, but Marco Devic’s disallowed goal for Ukraine against England (why is it always England?) when the ball clearly crossed the line but did not elicit a response from the linesman is one that would have surely drawn frustration from the co-hosts, who missed out on a place in the knock out stages because of it.

And it is exactly high-profile errors like that that the FA will seek to eradicate via the replacement of man with machine. More importantly, this will make all those who officiate football games more aware when it comes to doing their job properly. The new Premier League season is but a few days old and there is already much to talk about.

Ian Holloway certainly thinks so. During his post-match press conference following his defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, the Crystal Palace manager was quick to point out that Roberto Soldado’s penalty which gave Spurs all three points was of contentious origin.

“I’ve got to learn what a foul is because I thought (Nacer) Chadli deliberately body-checked (Stephen) Dobbie, smashed him down, and ran off with the ball,” he said. “If the referee didn’t see that, the assistant should have. You have to ask if he’s good enough if he didn’t see that. I don’t see how he can miss it.

“A minute and a half later, we’re arguing over whether it was deliberate handball.”

“I don’t understand how it was a penalty, or how Moxey could have got out of the way of it,” added the former Leicester, QPR and Bristol Rovers boss. “Do I think I would have got that at Tottenham? No I don’t. Tottenham will feel decisions like that if they play Manchester United.

“I just want a bit of fairness. I want a foul like anyone else would have got one. I’ve got a horrible taste in my mouth after that.”

He’s not the only one who will walk away from opening day with a horrible taste. Another London team were cursing their luck following some very suspicious officiating: Arsenal slumped to a 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa, despite taking the lead through Olivier Giroud as goals from Christian Benteke (2) and Antonio Luna meant Arsene Wenger was left cursing his team’s luck after the final whistle blew at the Emirates Stadium.

FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-ASTON VILLA

Did Arsenal face the wrath of the referees?

He could certainly feel he’d been given the short end of the stick. Referee Anthony Taylor signalled for Villa’s first penalty playing advantage for the visitors after Andres Weimann had struck the side netting of Wojciech Szczesny’s goal and the second was awarded despite Laurent Koscielny getting the ball off Gabriel Agbonlahor.

“The linesman said to me that he did not give the penalty and he was at the level of the tackle. So why does the referee – who did not give the penalty straight away – suddenly give the penalty? That’s what is amazing to me,” said Wenger on Villa’s second penalty.

“I would understand if the linesman said it was a penalty but you have to live with that. Just because you get these decisions given against you it doesn’t mean you should go on to lose the game. We have to focus on ourselves now.

“I feel there are still a lot of positives. We had some lively moments and kept going until the end and that’s what we have to focus on and forget the referee,” he finished.

Taylor was subsequently suspended by the FA for his performance in that game.

From assistant referees behind goal mouths at Euro 2012 to an array of cameras policing them just a year later, what the arrival of goal-line technology means that at the highest level, nobody’s job is safe if not done properly, and poor officiating will tend to have a domino effect on this particular stage: it only takes one poorly-officiated match to usher in an era of a computer replacing a referee or a linesman whose job it is to signal whether a player was offside or whether a team’s claim for a penalty was indeed genuine.

To err is human, but those errors cannot deny a team what is rightfully theirs. Letting the little things go always comes back to haunt you and Bolton Wanderers know exactly how that feels. In the 1995-96 season, the Trotters were relegated on the last day of the season when a goal that the officials had spotted earlier that season would have been enough to keep them up.

The FA Cup is meant to be the stuff of romance and it certainly was for Chesterfield in 1987, when they went all the way to the semi-finals to face Middlesbrough at Wembley. Leading 2-1, the Spireites thought they had scored when Jonathan Howard’s close-range drive crashed off the crossbar and bounced into the net but referee David Elleray disallowed the goal and Boro fought back to draw 3-3. Chesterfield lost the replay 3-0 and were denied a place at in the final because of Elleray’s gaffe.

Goal line technology will ensure that such gaffes don’t happen in the future, and the press can finally stop speculation on the ‘what if’ moments that accompany such ghost goals. Until, of course, the tables are turned.

What if goal line technology denies England a place at the next World Cup or European Championships? What if Germany or the Netherlands (take Croatia, France, any of England’s rivals) score a goal that requires the use of the Goal Decision System that denies ‘our brave boys’ as the English press calls the Three Lions a place in Brazil or France?

Will the English press stand by goal-line technology then? Or will they once again decry Mister Blatter and his inner circle for allowing its institution? They can complain all they want to, because it will be a goal fairly given.

And as they probably know by know, Karma is a b*tch.

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