Decision to target World Cup a major push by Blatter before bowing out
The announcement yesterday by Fifa that it is seeking tenders for the provision of goal-line technology for the both the Confederations Cup in Brazil this summer and, more significantly, the World Cup there next year signals a major push by Sepp Blatter to add progress on the issue to his legacy before he departs the game’s top job in 2015.
Several major leagues have already made it clear that they are keen to get on board early but whether any of the systems currently being trialled or developed really has a long-term future remains to be seen.
Regardless of how much progress is made over the next couple of years, Blatter’s successor as Fifa president is bound to have a major say in whether the system becomes a permanent fixture and right now the front- runner for the job is one of its most determined critics, Uefa President Michel Platini.
Speaking in Monaco last August, the former French international was scathing regarding both the technology itself and the way that Blatter has secured its introduction at the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the eight -man panel made up of representatives of the four “home” associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) as well as four representatives from Fifa itself.
Six votes were required at IFAB in order to secure a change of this significance but, argues Platini, Blatter’s change of heart on the issue a few years back, effectively meant that Fifa would immediately provide two-thirds of support required without any actual discussion or democratic process within the game’s governing body.
“I respect the fact that four (of IFAB’s members) are British and for 125 years they always take a traditional position,” says Platini.
“I respect that and I think that the four votes of the British are okay. It’s the four votes of Fifa that I don’t understand. It’s the president of Fifa who decides those four votes but he never speaks about these things. He never speaks about IFAB at Executive Committee (Fifa’s board) and I don’t think that that’s correct. The votes of Fifa should not be based on what one person wants.”
Platini, as it happens, claims much of the credit for other significant rule changes including the ban on goalkeepers picking up a ball that has been passed back to them and the red card for last defenders who deprive opponents of a clear goal-scoring opportunity and, having actively championed the use of additional match officials to help referees make decisions in relation to when the ball has crossed the line, he is not short on ideas in this department either.
Problem with technology
His problem with the proposed technology, he insists, is twofold. On the one hand he argues that it is unreliable, something strongly contested by Blatter who discarded an earlier prototype system on the basis, he said, that it was only 95 per cent accurate, before endorsing both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef, each of which was used at one of the two stadiums in which World Club Championship games were staged in Japan before Christmas.
Platini’s other complaint, however, is that the systems are unwieldy and expensive, a claim supported it seems by the Club Championship experience where Hawk-Eye’s Laurence Upshon suggested that it took a team of six to install all of the equipment and cables required to use the system and three more to calibrate it, all over a period of between a week and a week and a half.
“It’s difficult to put a big system of technology in for a game of an hour and a half,” says Platini with his characteristic passion and determination, “for a goal that might arrive in 20 years . . . for every game, for every match and then to take it out again. You would spend a lot of money. It’s not possible.”
The Frenchman says that he would find the decision to pursue the idea a little easier to swallow if it had been taken democratically by representatives of the game from all over the world although, he adds a little caustically, the expense means that it will never be deployed in Africa or most of the Concacaf region.
His position, however, would undoubtedly be stronger if his own system of additional match officials hadn’t suffered a high profile malfunction at Euro 2012 where the additional assistant referee beside the England goal in the game against Ukraine failed to spot that Marko Devic’s shot had crossed the line before John Terry hooked it away.
“It was the only mistake in three years,” he insists while sticking to his guns. “Additional referees are there to help the referee. Because we have one of them two metres away we do not need this technology.”
What they said . . .
“Fifa will use goal-line technology at Brazil 2014 WC. Finally, after all these years, they cross the line to the side of common sense.”
“At Last! “
“I think it will add magic. We all want calls to be 100 per cent right, whether they go for or against your team. It’s been a long time coming.”
(goalkeeper with Sao Paolo Corinthians, winners of World Club Championship at which technology was tested)
“Goal-line technology is not interfering with the ordinary game. The ball was very good and I think the new technology is going to improve football in the future.”
“You never will convince me. You say that justice is a video referee. I say: ‘No!’”
@seth2342 via twitter
“While halfwits debate goal-line technology and ogle anorexic flakes, our race has a window of opportunity for change. Grab it while you can.”
Famous five: Previous incidents of ‘goals’ being disputed
Geoff Hurst pretty much got the ball rolling with the strike that made it 3-2 to England in extra-time of the World Cup final against West Germany. The ball came crashing down off the underside of the bar and, television replays suggested, onto rather than over the line. It really was a close call, though, and the Soviet linesman opted to give the goal.
The Germans complained, the English celebrated and the debate has raged pretty much ever since.
The final of the African Cup of Nations between Cameroon and Nigeria was at an even more advanced stage – a penalty shoot out – when Victor Ikpeba stepped up to take his spot kick.
Like Hurst’s effort, the Nigerian’s shot first clattered off the underside of the crossbar but this time the television replays pretty conclusively showed that the ball did in fact cross the line. The referee, though, decided differently and Cameroon went on to win the shoot out and the title.
When Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes let loose from around 45 metres there really didn’t seem to be an awful lot of immediate danger but the then Manchester United goalkeeper, Roy Carroll, was, not for the first time, having one of those days and having failed to make the original save, he took a step, reached a couple of feet behind the goal line in desperation and fetched the ball back. There were probably 17th century technologies that could have established that it had been a goal but the referee didn’t give it.
The Germans got to serve their revenge for ’66 cold in Rustenburg where Frank Lampard fired off one of his trademark shots from the edge of the area, watched as it clipped the underside of the bar and landed a good 18 inches or so over the line. The Chelsea midfielder thought he had just made it 2-2 at a vital stage of the game but goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, whose image from that moment is on the cover of the Fifa documents relating to the tender process published yesterday, played on and the officials allowed him to.
Marko Devic’s shot in the game between Ukraine and England was turned up into the air by Joe Hart and then hooked out of the goalmouth by John Terry. TV clearly showed that the ball had crossed the line but neither the referee nor, perhaps more significantly, his goal line assistant spotted this. Critics of the system of using additional match officials cite this as evidence that it is not the solution while critics of video evidence point to fact that there was an offside in the build up and ask where the outside interference would start or stop. Emmet Malone