We all remember Lampard's incredible goal unfortunate miss in 2010.
The raging calls for goal-line technology that have been the crux of recent footballing debates have led the International Footballing Association Board (IFAB) to approve the introduction of two high-tech goal-line systems - “Hawk-Eye” and “GoalRef” – to the professional game. These technologies are aimed at removing refereeing errors in the awarding of goals following recent controversial events surrounding the subject. But is the introduction of these technologies completely justified? Is removing such unpredictability and controversy from the game a positive step?
After years of dismissing the idea of goal-line technology, FIFA altered its stance on the subject following Frank Lampard’s contentiously disallowed goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup that led to outrage amongst players, managers, and fans alike. Sepp Blatter shared his thoughts on the situation in July: "That was the moment for me to say: 'You can't afford for something similar to happen in the next World Cup.' We could say it is a historic day for international football." Thus, the seed of goal-line technology was planted and its rapid development has led to the foundation of two high-tech systems that Blatter says will first be used at December's FIFA Club World Cup and, if successful, at the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup.
The British system, Hawk-Eye, uses multiple cameras, focusing on each goal, to track the ball on the field. The software in the system pinpoints the exact location of the ball and if it crosses the goal line, a radio signal is sent to the referees watch to indicate that a goal has been scored. The German-Danish design, GoalRef, uses magnetic sensors in the goal frame to determine if the ball – custom fitted with a microchip – has crossed the line. The result is then electronically relayed to the referee. So it’s some fairly complex stuff, but will the introduction of this technology diminish the excitement of the game and remove the ‘abstract’ aspect of football, making it too concrete?
Football is a sport, and sports carry with them an aspect of controversy: in football, there are often times when this controversy lies in whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line. But isn’t such controversy a fundamental aspect of what makes football so exciting and unpredictable? When watching football, there is a sense of uncertainty about the game that puts you on the edge of your seat: it enlivens you and provides you with a unique thrill, which is arguably unrivalled by any other sport. This uncertainty, this unpredictability, and this controversy make football the enthralling, worldwide game that it is today. But with the introduction of goal-line technology, a large portion of this ambiguity will be removed, as the awarding of a goal will no longer rely on the referee – a fallible being – but instead on technology that can determine with certainty whether the ball did or didn’t cross the goal line. Thus, a reduction in controversy could actually lead to a decrease in viewer’s entertainment and enjoyment.
Goal-line technology could also carry further negative implications in the near future. A question that should be addressed is whether this technology could lead to the establishment of unnecessary technological advancements for football in subsequent years. Perhaps, for example, we will find the need to allow technology to determine whether a player dived in the penalty area. What if a player goes down in the box, the referee calls for a penalty, but replays are allowed to be analysed prior to the penalty kick to determine if the player had dived or not? Sure, this would encourage players to stop diving, but wouldn’t it take away from the tradition of the game? The addition of technology might eventually ruin the game we know and love so dearly.
There are, however, positive implications regarding goal-line technology. When a goal is controversially allowed or disallowed, the players and fans who have suffered from the incorrect decision can feel unjustly treated and often turn to referees and their assistants to vent their frustration: after all, it is their responsibility to decide whether or not it is a goal. With goal-line technology providing a more accurate decision, however, the referees would be out of the equation when awarding goals and would receive less post-match criticism from players, managers, and fans. This would benefit the refereeing community and could potentially alleviate some of their stress during matches, leading to a higher precision in their judgment of other aspects of the game for which they are responsible.
Furthermore, it is not as if changes to the game of football are uncommon since its foundation in 1863: in 1866 the offside law was established before being amended in 1925 and 1990; the penalty kick was introduced in 1891; substitutions were first permitted in 1958; the system of red and yellow cards was established in 1970; and in 1992, the law that goalkeepers were forbidden from handling back-passes was established. These alterations illustrate that, over time, the game has adapted: perhaps it is necessary that it adapts to its ever-changing surroundings and that goal-line technology is the next step in doing so.
The implications of not having goal-line technology and simply keeping the game as it is now must also be considered. If goal-line technology was not introduced, then the question would remain about “what if”: what would have happened if it was used? Would there be positive changes to the game? If another incident like Lampard’s occurred, immense pressure would be placed on the IFAB to approve the technology and much of the footballing world would continue to be outraged over the lack of such technology, leading to further abuse and vilification of referees.
Therefore, the positive consequences and the ramifications if goal-line technology was not introduced means it will be used in future competitions, starting with FIFA Club World Cup in December. However, I feel that it must be closely examined and monitored to determine if it really is improving the game, or if it is actually removing the enjoyment and elegance from The Beautiful Game.