EURO 2012: Sepp Blatter and the Issues with Goal Line Technology

By Alan Dymock

There has been a lot of fallout already over Ukraine’s phantom goal against England in the final group match of EURO 2012.

England progress as winners of Group D and face Italy in the final quarter final match on Sunday, but in the meantime there has been debate, argument, raised voices and a low hum of disapproval.

Whether or not Artim Milevskiy was offside is irrelevant; the protocols for determining whether a football crossed the goal line failed spectacularly. This set in motion a chain of radical events.

First, in the post match press conference, famously fiery Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin blew a gasket. Enraged by the officials failure to award Marko Dedic a goal he blurted “There are five referees on the pitch and the ball is 50cm behind the goal-line. Why do we need five officials?” This led to heated discussions with local journalists which led to Blokhin offering the press man a trip outside for a ‘man conversation.’

If this was not enough disaccord for the neutral, today FIFA President Sepp Blatter stumbled into the cause célèbre, reminding everyone on Twitter that, when it came to it “After last night’s match #GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity.”

Blatter has gradually changed his tune from that of a purist, bowing to popular pressure as late as possible in a manner all to accustom to a politician who refuses to superannuate. His cohort Michel Platini, head of UEFA and driving force behind the establishment-suiting Financial Fair Play (FFP) movement, is dead against it. Blatter can overrule the Frenchman’s draconian decisions if he so chooses.

However, what is interesting here is that while political machinations impinge on football everyone forgets that goal line technology is already scheduled to be rolled out this summer, in a test capacity.

Blatter is buying time. He knows that while the desire is there the untested technology, which will be put into practice in junior league and minor matches before decisions can be taken, is likely to come back requiring tweaks.

What must be put to soccer’s hierarchy is why video technology, like Hawkeye used in tennis and cricket, is not the only option they should be investing time in. Video reviews, even, work in rugby Union, rugby League and the NFL. If television stations have the ability to manipulate images for analysis it should be possible for FIFA and UEFA to have access, as well.

What is certain is that the two extra officials monitoring the goal line are redundant. Maybe now considering computer chips in balls and lasers and any other wizardry can be seen in the same light. The purists argument is one based on faith in human judgement. It may have delayed the inevitable, but perhaps that faith in human judgement can be reapplied in a better way as the fourth or fifth official sits in front of a review screen.

Worried about an offside? Well in cricket looking for foul balls is automatic protocol in every review, and in rugby Union there is talk of extending review powers to a minute before any actual grounding of the ball. The discourse with rugby reviews is: “is there any reason I cannot award the try?”

Surely soccer can adopt the same positive rhetoric. Stop play –“is there any reason I cannot award the goal?” –review relevant data, award or say “No” and offer a bounce restart.

It is almost too simple to actually happen, isn’t it?

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