Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Served Up on a Blatter

It’s a pretty safe bet that almost every breathing English human being out there suffered through ninety minutes of their country being schooled by the Germans on Sunday.

Before you dismiss this as just another blog post lamenting the England team’s sorry excuse for a performance, I’m not here to critique England’s woefully inept display in any way, shape or form; there are countless others out there who have done that with more insight than I ever could.

But given the fact that TV or not TV is all about the audio-visual world it seemed prudent for me to discuss the major talking point coming out of Sunday’s debacle aside from the utter capitulation of a nation: the debate over video technology in football.

Mere minutes before this incident, the other half and I had been debating who would be scapegoated by the fans, media and players for England’s defeat and just before half time we had our answer…

I immediately had visions of the front page of The Sun the next day trying to incite a third world war over how “we was robbed” by crooked officiating. As well as providing a get out of jail free card though that has surprisingly not really been used by the English media and fans, this incident (coupled with the offside decision in the Mexico-Argentina game later that day) has reopened the can of worms that is the video/goal line technology in Football debate.

It was decided earlier in the year by FIFA that, in spite of growing calls for its introduction into the game, video technology would not be introduced in any way any time soon.

The result has been that the world’s greatest sporting event – an event viewed the world over by millions upon millions of people – has been reduced to a shambles by a lack of innovation.

I can’t think of another sport where incidents like this can happen and not be rectified – could you imagine this happening in a US sport, like the NFL or NBA? The answer is no, because it just simply wouldn’t. We have the technology and they use it to keep the game from descending into farce as the game of football did on Sunday.

Make no mistake, the two incidents in question would have made no difference whatsoever to the outcome of either game – England and Mexico would have both still been comprehensively outclassed, but what should have been a showcase of sublime footballing skill and ingenuity rather left everyone with a rather unpleasant aftertaste.

The furore Sunday’s events have caused has finally convinced Sepp Blatter and his band of dinosaurs that technology is needed in football to prevent it becoming a laughing stock.

To play devil’s advocate though, how they start to revolutionise the sport is another matter altogether. I can’t help but feel that Blatter has probably remained stubborn on this issue to this point because he knows just how massive an overhaul this would be and how difficult it will be to get it right.

Emotions are definitely ruling heads at this point, and as much as I agree that goal line video is needed, if Blatter has indeed been scared off technology’s introduction in the past due to the logistical nightmare bringing it in will cause, then he should have remained strong and not bowed to the pressure.

Where exactly do you start with this? Who gets the benefit of the technology first? Which countries? Which leagues within each country?

The most important question of all though is who the hell pays for it all?

It might be easy for a Chelsea or a Manchester City to install video technology but what about a Rushden & Diamonds or a Dagenham & Redbridge?

If the clubs don’t pay, then do FIFA or the national body of each country foot the bill?

Whoever is expected to foot the bill to bring in video technology, you can guarantee that the people who end up stumping up the cash for it will be the fans.

I personally think goal line technology is a must now, and Blatter et al need to come up with a way of making that happen sooner rather than later. Will it be easy? Hell no, and how they go about it I have no clue – but hey, that’s why I’m not President of FIFA.

This is a house of cards though and if goal line tech comes in to football where do you draw the line? The Mexico-Argentina controversy was over an offside decision – do you then allow video technology to judge incidents of that nature as well?

What about fouls? Throw-ins? Goal kicks?

There are very few honest footballers and with the pressure to win so immense these days, they will appeal every little contentious decision that they possibly can to try and gain an advantage, fair or unfair.

By caving under the rightful pressure to finally consider the introduction of a technology that was needed in the game well over a decade ago and not limiting the debate to just that area, Blatter may now have dug himself a hole that he can’t get out of…

…And ultimately football could end up suffering rather than benefiting from modern technology changing the face of the sport.
Frank Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’ managed to make a Uruguayan linesman a more reviled figure to the English than Hitler, kind of ironic really given that we were playing Germany.


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