Technology in football: the next steps

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Mitchell Young mulls over the technology options to improve sports officiating…

Football is at the stage where immense pressure is put on referees to get every decision right and magnified if they get a decision wrong. Significant decisions have created momentous outcomes like the famous Maradona ‘Hand of God’ in 1986 and Frank Lampard’s ‘ghost’ goal in 2010.

Goal-line technology is the latest revelation which has taken the Premier League by storm.

“This is one of the biggest changes that has happened in the 150 years since we conceived the laws of the game and it is fitting that it is happening in our 150th anniversary year,” said FA General Secretary Alex Horne at the start of the season. Meanwhile, referees have less power over the game, lower-league teams can’t afford the technology – and the system only verifies goals, not offside decisions or possible red cards.

The next step for football should be for further video technology to be brought in, by emulating the great sports that have embraced technology: rugby and tennis. Take rugby’s video analysis and combine it with tennis’ Hawkeye system. Both teams would be given two or three appeals to be made by the captains per half – on any decision, which would be replayed by the fourth official or a fifth adjudicator and decide with the referee whether to accept or decline the appeal. If the decision is accepted, your team keep the appeal; if not you lose one of your three ‘challenges’ or appeals, similar to tennis.

Some might argue that it would take too long and slow the game down, but if the ‘Goal Decision System’ can have a replay in less than 20 seconds, then you can get a video technology decision in a similar time. There would be no additional cost for clubs, as most football league clubs already have video replays; and the use of the fourth official would not cost the FA any money either, as all they do is mediate arguments on the touchline and put the board up for substitutes.

“The decisions we see over the weekend – we all know, and see from every single angle, that they’re wrong,” said former Millwall manager Ian Holloway back in November. “We never used to know that but now we do.” 

He called out to the powers that be in the FA and UEFA: “Let’s just make sense of this, shall we? UEFA, FIFA, whoever, I’m sick of mistakes. What I’m saying is we have cameras in all these grounds: Premier League, Championship, we don’t need to go any lower. Your eyes are not as quick as the ball, so just get the fourth official in the stand and GET THE DECISION RIGHT!

“It can’t be right, what’s happening to football. Give the referees those little angles, so they will get it right. It will take five seconds, that’s all. And then none of us would be talking about anything other than a magnificent game of football.” The players and the managers are beginning to notice what needs to be implement but why has this yet to be done? And will it be introduced in the next five years? It’s unlikely.


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