Yesterday saw an historic watershed moment for football, the day it finally started on the long path to fixing itself. FIFA, the world governing body, has today officially licensed two companies, the English Hawk-Eye and the German GoalRef to install their goal-line technology systems in stadia around the globe.
The Club World Championships at the end of this year is expected to see the first use of the technology with the Premier League looking to introduce it for the start of the 2013/14 season, and not a moment too soon.
It is however a few moments too late, even the least avid football fans among us would be able to name a certain moment in 1966 when the issue of the ‘ghost goal’ first raised it’s head on a major stage. Now whilst I’m not suggesting FIFA should’ve introduced technology some fifty years ago, but how about fifteen years ago?
By that time the Video Referee had been in use in Rugby League for a year, and the Gridiron Gangs of the NFL across the pond had had their first foray into video technology some ten years prior to that, with the NFL first using a video-challenge system in 1986.
How about ten years ago, when the Hawk-Eye system was introduced by Channel 4 on their superb coverage of international cricket? Or maybe five years ago, to follow in the footsteps of Tennis who reacted to an incident at the 2004 US Open by introducing the technology in 2006.
Both Cricket and Tennis have had their issues with the use of technology in their sport but have worked through and now reached a position where technology is an accepted part of their cultures.
FIFA and many others may see today’s decision as the beginning of the end of a long running debate, but really this should be the end of the beginning. This decision should open up FIFA’s mind to the possibilities of technology. A live review system for certain offences should be the next step that is seriously considered. Many say such a system would disrupt the flow of a game but how about allowing managers to challenge a red card?
When a player is sent off there is a natural stoppage in the game where a review of a decision could take literally seconds for a referee to come to a conclusive decision. This could be utilised in similar fashion to challenges in American Football whereby the referee has one minute alone to watch video replays before returning to deliver his final decision.
Should a challenge fail, a manager is charged with one time out, simply alter that part to charging the manager with the loss of one substitution and you have a feasible system for use in real football.
For those set against the use of technology, why not simply introduce more referees? Why are there just three on pitch officials to watch twenty-two players? It doesn’t make sense. For example, additional Assistant Referees in the stands would be in a much better position to make a call on offside decisions, with the traditional linesman position being used to adjudge line calls and fouls.
A revolution is needed in football, and goal line technology should be just the beginning.