Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not Enough"Rugby does it”: The Development of Technology in Football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough "Rugby does it”: The Development of Technology in Football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

“Rugby does it”: The Development of Technology in Football

The development of technology in football is an extremely controversial topic.

FIFA’s reluctance to allow technology to interfere with the game is a massive frustration to many people, and whenever a referee gets a big decision wrong there is a resurgence of pressure piled upon the association.

In particular, Frank Lampard’s “goal that wasn’t” against Germany in the World Cup 2010 sticks in the memory and prompted calls from all sides for goal line technology to be introduced.

But we must be careful about technology in sport.

I am a firm supporter of goal line technology, just as I am a proponent of the video referee when awarding tries in rugby. It is important to get these scoring decisions correct, and a video official certainly helps the match referee who can’t always see the ball being grounded amongst a mountain of bodies.

Likewise, technology to signal whether a football is over a goal line would be simple to introduce and would be minimally intrusive to the game.

However, some football fans wish to have a video referee at the officials’ beck-and-call for more than goal line decisions. Some have suggested that video refs be used to assist in awarding penalties, offsides, and disciplinary decisions. This would be a mistake, and it is understandable that FIFA have been somewhat hesitant so far in bowing to technology, for fear of where it might lead.

Furthermore, many people underestimate the time it takes for video officials to reach a decision. So far in the Six Nations Championships we have had numerous references to the TMO (Television Match Official). Some of these decisions haven’t taken seconds, they have taken several minutes. The official has needed to watch replays over and over again from every available angle to reach an educated conclusion.

Ultimately, the correct decision is made in the end, but it doesn’t usually make for good watching, unless the tension is increased by it being the last play of the match.

It is also a general consensus in rugby that the referees have become over-reliant on the TMO’s, avoiding making decisions even when it is clear that they should award the try.

If football expands its use of technology beyond goal line sensors, this could happen too. The pressure on referees is so great (and they get far more exposure to criticism in the press and abuse from the football terraces than from rugby) that it would be almost impossible for them to resist opting for a second opinion, thus, breaking up the game unnecessarily for what should be routine decisions.

Agreed, FIFA have been stubborn with their refusal to introduce technology, but my point is that it would be a big step, and does to be considered extremely carefully. Nobody wants to see the referees make mistakes, but neither do they want a sport characterised by human talent to be overpowered by machines, video references and replays.

The main thing to understand is that the justification “well, rugby does it” is over-simplifying the problem. It is a different sport entirely, and technology would need to be implemented in different ways.

The most essential step at the moment is to develop technology that would determine whether the ball crosses the goal line – be it sensors or be it replay referral. It is incredibly difficult for any referee or linesman to see whether the ball has bounced over the line in a split second from 30 yards away, and if there is any doubt then they should have the ability to seek help.

But in my view, this is where it should stop. Sure, players should be cited after the game if they have committed a disciplinary offense as they currently are, and I believe this should be extended to combat the ever-developing world of diving and play-acting too. But, during a match, we must continue to allow these highly trained referees the freedom to interpret situations and apply their own discretion and expertise.

Matthew Goolding

For more Football Blogs and opinion from football fans around the world