4thJanuary 2005, Old Trafford in Manchester. Tottenham Hotspur are battling bravely at the home of Sir Alex Ferguson’s title chasing side.
They had held out to 0-0 for 89 minutes when their Portuguese midfielder Pedro Mendes shot ambitiously from 50 yards. His relatively routine shot was spilled by United keeper Roy Carroll and the ball bounced over the line before Carroll frantically clawed the ball back out. TV replays show the ball a good two yards over the line but no goal is given by the officials. Spurs are denied a famous win and football has one of the most controversial moments since 1966.
27 June 2010, The Free State Stadium in South Africa. England are trailing Germany 2-1 in their 2nd round match of the World Cup, the biggest stage in world football. Frank Lampard takes a shot from outside the box which crashes into the bar and down into the goal. The ball bounces back out again with TV replays showing the goal a good distance over the line. Again officials do not give the goal and England are consequently knocked out after the Germans go on to score two more goals.
15 April 2012, Wembley in London. Two London rivals, Tottenham and Chelsea meet in the FA Cup semi-final to decide who will meet Liverpool in the final on the 5 May. Both games in the league produced closely fought draws and Spurs have had a great season whilst the Blues are a revived force under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo. It is 1-0 to Chelsea after a cracking Didier Drogba opener and just after half time Chelsea have a corner. A chaotic scramble ensues with Ledley King and Benoit Assou- Ekotto preventing a shot from Juan Mata crossing the line before referee Martin Atkinson, clearly having decided that it did, awards a goal to Chelsea. The ball is no-where near crossing the line and Chelsea go on to record a 5-1 win.
These are just three examples of when match officials have made the wrong decision in game when a 30 second conversation with an official watching with the aid of technology could have allowed them to make the correct decision. Time and time again fans, players and managers are left fuming at the decision made by the officials, who can forget the Heurelho Gomes incident at Chelsea or Reading’s ghost goal against Watford amongst others.
I can fully understand why some people would be against the idea of GLT (goal-line technology) because it is meant to be a human game and sometimes human error will come into play and there is nothing we can do about it. Human error is unquestionably a part of life and sport but surely if there is a way to improve the situation and reduce the likelihood for error it must be implemented? The Hawkeye system used in Cricket and Tennis has improved the game no end, as the days when players would fume after a shocking decision from an umpire are over and they can now no longer argue with what is right in front of them.
People may argue that if we bring in GLT we will be robotising football but can you imagine a game without errors from the referees? No longer would he be seen as an “evil” figure or a centre of controversy or hate. This new philosophy of actually respecting the ref is vitally important to the younger generation. I am one the countless young footballers who at one point in their career has mouthed off to a ref about a decision and whilst I am not citing this as an excuse at some point watching my heroes when I was younger must have influenced me. Clearly Sunday League refs will never have GLT at their disposal but if professional refs are treated with more respect I’m sure amateurs will receive the same improvement in behaviour from players.
However what I really don’t understand about people who argue against GLT is the fear that the introduction of technology will somehow ruin the game. Innovations and technology have always improved the game. The two assistants were introduced in 1891 and a fourth was added in 1991. These additions have helped the game surely? Would you like to see one man running the game by himself? In 2006 the officials were provided with earpieces to allow them to communicate with greater ease and surely this is technology. This technological development has allowed them to communicate without running over to each other and has improved the game.
FIFA have consistently refused to openly embrace the idea of GLT until a 100% system can be put in place but the technology is there and it has to be tested frequently now so it can be implemented as soon as possible. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in March that he believes he can convince IFAB (International Football Association Board) that it is imperative that they move forward with GLT.
This is good news because it is clear that we need it in the sport. It is a part of football to move on and are we really happy being behind tennis, cricket and rugby. By not introducing GLT we are going against the desire to constantly improve which has been a characteristic of the game since it started. There may be traditionalists with reservations but every innovation in the sport will have had some doubters, but this will improve the game. Games, seasons and careers will no longer be defined by one moment of error by one set of men and our game will finally progress after too many years of stalled development. Hawkeye is being tested at St Mary’s on Wednesday and I look forward to hearing the