Following Everton's 2-2 draw with Newcastle United on Monday, which was blighted by mistakes from the officials, does football need technology?
Normally barely a month passes in the top flight without the goal line technology and video replay debate cropping up. On Monday David Moyes’ Everton became the latest side to be robbed by incorrect decisions made by linesmen and referees. First, Marouane Fellaini saw his legitimate goal ruled out for offside before Victor Anichebe’s late header clearly crossed the line, only for play to be waved on by the officials. What was the result of this? Well, unsurprisingly the world has still carried on after such a grievous injustice. Moyes, although probably still spitting feathers and burning a giant effigy of referee Mike Jones, acknowledged that the aforementioned decisions had cost his side a victory but is yet to submit an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Fans in public houses can, and almost certainly have, debated what went on ad nauseam, but human error has for so long been a part of the sport that whatever anger may have been provoked will by now have subsided. Or perhaps not, as in the world of instant replays and intense scrutiny, mistakes become tantamount to professional negligence or premeditated bias in the minds of some. With “more accurate” forms of scrutiny, however, all this would disappear. Goal line technology could eliminate any incorrect decisions along the lines of the Anichebe chance, while video replays would ensure that pub chats could focus more on the technical ability of goals, all of which would be scored fairly, be over the line, or emerge from justly given penalty kicks. It sounds almost perfect, does it not?
Not quite, for extended monologues about Eden Hazard and his exceptional ball control are almost as inanely dull as “chats” regarding the new IOS6 operating system on the iPhone. What is more thrilling is the schadenfreude of an opponent being unjustly dismissed for an innocuous challenge, or lambasting one of those “idiots” for missing a blatant penalty. Video replays remove an element of reality and excitement from the game that, once initially lost, will never be recovered. Goal line technology, meanwhile, is essential in order to keep football moving with the times. There is no interpretation involved when one asks the following question – did it cross the line or not? Tackles are always seen as the most heinous crime by one set of supporters and a “mistimed challenge” by another group of fans. There is not a just framework, or even a feasible one, in place that would permit the introduction of fully fledged video replay technology.
On this basis, Everton would have been 3-2 winners over Newcastle United on Monday and Moyes may perhaps have still managed to fit a small rant over Fellaini’s disallowed goal into his post-match press conference. Which is not only good for the game, provided the technical ability of referees is not directly criticised, but healthy. Goal line mistakes should be a thing of the past. Wrongly given penalties, incorrect red cards and not keeping up with play or misjudging a player’s position are elements that make football the greatest spectacle in the world. Remove them and, rather like preventing overtaking in Formula 1, it becomes a game for scientists, statisticians and those that cannot accept any fallibility. And no-one wants that: do they?