Clamour for goal-line technology rises

Thu, Jun 21, 2012, 01:00

SOCCER:ANY begrudging Irish fans tempted to curse Viktor Kassai for the favour he did England the other night should not forget our own team’s last encounter with him; in Estonia last November when, having made a few big calls against the hosts, the Hungarian official spent a good deal of the night having “F*** you, referee!” chanted melodically at him by the impressively musical locals.

Kassai did little enough wrong that night in Tallinn and was primarily guilty of accepting the guidance of others on Tuesday, with “additional assistant referee” Istvan Vad actually making the call to deny Marko Devic a goal after mistakenly deciding his deflected shot had not crossed the line.

Predictably, the fall-out from the incident has been heated, although rarely as fiery as Ukraine boss Oleg Blokhin’s press conference immediately afterwards when, amongst other things, the former Soviet Union striker asked a critical journalist outside for a “man conversation”.

It has been complicated too by the fact the player who fed the ball to Devic moments earlier, Artem Milevsky, was offside when he had been passed to. That aspect of the controversy might provide Michel Platini with a comeback after his typically confident comments before the tournament about how the provision of additional referees would make such errors impossible are read back to him.

Then, Uefa’s president observed: “With five, officials see everything. They don’t take decisions without being fully aware. There’s also a uniformity of refereeing. For example, they don’t call unintentional handballs. That uniformity has led to more flowing football.”

He went on to suggest his opposition to goal-line technology was simply based on it being the thin end of the wedge: “Goal-line technology isn’t a problem,” he said, “the problem is the arrival of technology because, after, you’ll need technology for deciding handballs and then for offside decisions and so on. It’ll be like that forever and ever. It’ll never stop. That’s the problem I have.”

And yet it seems obvious and sensible to most followers of the game to use whatever aids you can to eliminate human error where possible, while allowing the imperfections of the system to persist where they must.

At least Sepp Blatter who, for all his faults, has generally been progressive where the rules of the game are concerned, appears to be back onside again. Fifa’s main man tweeted yesterday: “After last night’s match #GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity.”

The Swiss has been inconsistent, having initially signalled support a few years back, changed his mind after trials at international youth tournaments, and then had another rethink following England’s defeat by Germany at the World Cup two years ago when Frank Lampard was denied a far more blatant goal than the one Devic allowed.

Along with the Scots, the English FA, to be fair, had opposed Fifa’s about-turn at the game’s rule-making International Football Association Board level when it met in March of last year.

The Welsh and Northern Irish, however, sided with Fifa’s four delegates to ensure a 6-2 result, with IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson echoing one of Blatter’s more bizarre justifications for eschewing the use of technology to, in effect, help limit the scope for injustice when he said: “We very much appreciate the human side of the game, the debate, the controversy, that’s why the board has taken this decision.”

That would almost seem reasonable in a world where people wander along to a low level game and then have almost as much craic afterwards debating a poor decision as they did watching the game but aside from the fact millions of people get genuinely upset about this stuff, huge amounts of money are at stake in prize money, sponsorships, bonuses and bets.

Blatter has also said his desire is based on a desire to protect the “universality” of the game, with matches supposedly essentially the same at every level.

Certainly the €300,000 cost of installing “Hawk-eye”, one of the two systems now at an advanced stage of testing, puts it out of the reach of your average park side but then there aren’t too many “additional assistant referees” floating around the Athletic Union League either.

Either it or the rival Goalref are, in any case, likely to be formally adopted, with an initial decision expected on July 2nd in Kiev and the actual introduction to follow over the next year or so, once Emfa, the Swiss-based institute doing the testing, completes its work.

Neither system is flawless with “Hawk-eye”, for instance, requiring a brief period for consultation in instances where an official is not sure of his decision or a player/team challenges it, but both appear to be highly accurate and must be an improvement on the current situation.

In the meantime, Roy Hodgson’s England march on, with Steven Gerrard observing after Tuesday’s game the break they received courtesy of Vad and Kassai was payback for Bloemfontein two years ago.

Most of us thought actually that that had been payback for Wembley in ’66, however, so the English, who always seem to be involved in these controversies, should beware; they’re now due another bad goal-line call and the gaps between them are getting dramatically shorter.

SOME NOTABLE GOAL-LINE CONTROVERSIES

Geoff Hurst (England), 1966

With the World Cup final level at 2-2 and into extra-time, Hurst’s shot crashed off the underside of the bar and down. Germany protested, the referee couldn’t decide whether it had crossed the line but his linesman, Tofik Bahramov, gave it.

Pedro Mendes (Spurs), 2005

The Spurs midfielder struck a long, looping shot that Manchester United’s Ray Carroll dropped into his own net. The ball crossed the line by something like a yard. No goal.

Frank Lampard (England), 2010

With England trailing 2-1 against Germany in a World Cup last 16 match, the Chelsea midfielder struck a shot from outside the area that went in off the woodwork. The ball was clearly over the line (see above) but bounced back out and the Germans played on.

Juan Mata (Chelsea), 2012

Chelsea were already winning their FA Cup semi-final against Spurs 1-0 at Wembley when the Spanish midfielder’s low drive in a crowded penalty box hit his team-mate John Terry on the line. Even the defender admitted it hadn’t crossed the line but the goal was given and put the result beyond doubt.

Marko Devic (Ukraine), 2012

The striker’s deflected shot was looping into the net before England’s John Terry hooked it away after it had crossed the line. The additional referee, standing mere yards away, failed to spot the goal.