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Looking Ahead: Goal-Line Technology

Thursday 30th May 2013
This week, Bruce Halling looks ahead to next season and gives his thoughts on the impending introduction of goal-line technology.

Next season, we see the eagerly awaited and long overdue introduction of goal-line technology into the Premier League. Given the relative success of video technology in other sports, it was surely only a matter of time before football finally caught up, although it certainly took a lot of kicking and screaming for us to get to this point. I can remember calls for this after the Pedro Mendes ‘goal' back at Old Trafford in March 2005, but the battle for the introduction of the technology only started to be won after Frank Lampard was denied a goal at the World Cup in a tie against Germany which England ultimately lost, and lost quite convincingly in the end.

There is something of an irony on the subject. These are the two incidents most commonly cited when the topic is brought up, yet neither ever should have needed the technology in the first place and should have been given as a matter of common sense, as both were quite visibly over the line. Perhaps that's the point. Not many people mention Alan Shearer's first goal in Newcastle's 2-1 win over Stevenage in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in 1998 – a goal which appeared to have been cleared off the line spectacularly by Mark Smith – which is the earliest occasion I can recall the topic of goal-line technology being mentioned, and an incident much less clear-cut than either of the two I've already mentioned and would have undoubtedly benefitted from having such technology available.

After all, that's the point of it, isn't it? We want this technology so that referees can get these crucial decisions right, and with there being more money than ever invested into the Premier League from next season onwards, it's clear to see why there is such a vested interest in the introduction of the Hawkeye system. The Premier League is widely regarded as one of, if not the biggest domestic league in the world, and fans ultimately want to see the right decisions being made. Nobody wants to see a title decider settled by a botched decision or a team relegated from the Premier League because a goal was disallowed when it should have stood. Part of being the best league in the world is about having the best referees as well as the best teams, and if they need a bit of extra help for them to achieve this, then so be it.

Hawkeye have already ensured that the system they have devised for football causes minimum disruption to the flow of the game, with the referee receiving notification to his watch within moments of the incident in question taking place so that an almost instantaneous decision can be made, preventing a situation where you're standing around waiting for a decision as is so often seen in other sports – most notably cricket, where it can sometimes take minutes for the television umpire to come to a decision if it is a particularly difficult call. With this particular system, it has been designed with one single objective in mind – to answer the question of whether it was a goal or not, and it provides the means to answer the question quickly.

Critics have said that if we are to have goal-line technology in football, then it has to do the job and it has to do the job well, and I believe that Hawkeye have a good enough track record to be trusted with what could turn out to be a revolutionary moment for the game. Their systems in tennis and cricket have undoubtedly provided a massive improvement in the number of correct decisions that are made in the games and that can only be a good thing for the sport. In both cases, video technology has even been implemented as a feature of the game with participants able to call upon the technology to question decisions that are made during play, and while this won't be done in football, the use of the technology has undoubtedly helped to improve the game and it will be interesting to see whether football would be able to do the same thing – although personally I think the goal-line technology should be left as an aid to assist the referees rather than anything else.

It is worth pointing out, however, that there has been a negative effect with the introduction of video technology in the game of cricket. The ability of teams to question the decision of the umpire and to – in many cases – prove them wrong is something that has divided many fans. Umpires are now increasingly coming under criticism when they get decisions wrong and this into question the competency of the officials in a game where the regulations place a strong emphasis on the spirit of the game and where the umpire's call was once the be-all and end-all. It must also be noted that the video systems are not used universally in the game, with the BCCI opposed to the use of the systems and refuse to ratify the use of them in games where they have jurisdiction.

Football is, of course, a different game and will present it's own challenges when the system is introduced. Referees already take a hammering from the media and fans as it is so I can only see the introduction of goal-line technology as something which will help referees and restore their reputation and standing within the game. I also find it highly unlikely that any individual teams will demand to opt out of the technology, so the situation that we see in cricket where one particular team adamantly refuses to use the technology is extremely unlikely to occur and I actually believe the Premier League will insist that all of its teams use the technology.

I believe that we should welcome the introduction of video technology into football with cautious optimism, but we must also be wary of two things. Firstly, we have to ensure that we don't become too reliant on the technology. If it's needed, then by all means use it, but don't let the fact we have the technology at our disposal get in the way of sensible decision-making. Referees need to use their eyes and their brains first, and use the technology as an aid as and when it's needed. Secondly, we have to be aware that there may be teething problems, and if there are, I wouldn't immediately write it off as a disaster. If there are problems initially, I suspect they will be able to be solved with time and perseverance and it is up to the football community to hammer that point home. It's taken us this long to get this far, let's see it through and make it work.

Bruce Halling
Bruce is a 24-year-old self-confessed Football League addict and author of the 'Road To The Promised Land' column. He is a passionate Southend United fan who has witnessed the Shrimpers' rise to the Championship as well as their more recent fall back to their current position in League Two. Though he doesn’t get to many games as a spectator, he has worked at Southend, Colchester United and now Queens Park Rangers as a steward, so is never too far away from the action on a matchday. Away from football, he is a Politics graduate and currently jobhunting. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucehalling

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