Is Officiating Technology Football’s Future?

NO  –  James Candler 

Since Raheem Sterling managed to execute a beautiful yet fortuitous cross in a recent League Cup semi-final match, the issue of goal-line technology has once again been in the spotlight. The apparent reaction to the decisive goal has been a swift and collective uproar which can essentially be summarised as eloquently as: goal-line technology is the future, human referees just make mistakes, we need to let go of the past’.

Of course, upon initial inspection, the implementation of more technology in the refereeing of football, would serve only to eliminate the possibility of human risk and therefore create a flawless game, where skill not decisions determine the outcome of matches. However, it must be be noted that the same effect can be achieved without resorting to technology. As my fellow Gryphon writer quite helpfully points out in her argument, UEFA made the decision to add two additional assistant referees behind the goal-line, in 2009 and since then there has been nary an instance of goal-line based controversy in the competition. Consequently, the same effect (in terms of effective match officiating) has been achieved.

So, if the two options produce the same outcome, then why necessarily are additional match officials better than the implantation of goal-line technology? Well, the introduction of technology is by its very nature, the removal of the human element and this is a slippery slope. One only has to look to rugby union to see a sport in which technology has taken over and ultimately slowed down the top matches to grinding halts. This a sport in which every decision is endlessly scrutinised and the euphoric celebration of tries is undercut by two minutes of watching it again on a large screen. Is this the future that football fans envision? One in which the beautiful game that is known not just for its frenetic pace, but also its ability to spark endless debates, is undercut by tedious and irrefutable computer generated decisions. Personally, I would rather sacrifice the occasional goal, then my pure enjoyment of a whole sport.

YES – Katie Whyatt 

Raheem Sterling’s League Cup semi-final cross for Kevin De Bruyne’s decisive Manchester City goal once more underlines the need for further development to the present officiating structure.

Knee jerk reactions are rarely the best reactions, but increasingly, it seems imperative that referees are given further support in order to minimise the possibility of error. The long overdue utilisation of goal-line technology in the Premier League has proven pivotal without disrupting the pace of the game, and football’s leading sporting bodies have previously trialled methods that, if employed, would have stopped Sterling in his tracks last week.

Back in 2009, UEFA tested additional assistant referees – one behind each goal – to “ensure that the Laws of the Game were upheld and informing the referee of incidents of any kind that he may otherwise have missed.” The original emphasis was on ruling out so-called ghost-goals, but it is obvious now that goal-line technology is

insufficient for all the calls a referee must make. For total transparency, the system must be extrapolated, with the net cast wider. This is not a call to an over-sterilised game precipitated by a one-off event: IFAB, football’s rulemaking board, gave the green light for fifth officials in 2012, and they were used at the final stages of the Euros that year. Why has this not been built upon? That these incidents are often rare or isolated is of scant consolation when human error irrecoverably changes the outcome of a game as important as this one.

On Sky’s Monday Night Football last season, Howard Webb revealed top-flight officials generally make the right call in 90% of cases. Even so, fans, players and managers are justified in their discontent in cases as blatant as this. Anything to reduce ambiguity and thus offer increased protection to referees is beneficial to all parties.

Featured image: Youtube

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