Technology debate rekindled in wake of questionable decisions

Two World Cup matches, two flashpoints. The widespread acclaim that greeted the referees at the outset of the 2010 World Cup has well and truly evaporated by now.

This World Cup has seen its share of controversial decisions. Having come back from a two goal deficit, the United States were wrongly denied a winner by referee Koman Coulibaly. The Malian official ruled out Michael Bradley’s late goal for a foul. Video technology would have revealed that no infringement took place in the Slovenian penalty area.

Kaká, one of the stars of world football, was dismissed for an apparent elbow against Côte d’Ivoire. Television replays revealed that Sebastien Lannoy was deceived by the Ivorian winger, Kader Keita. Kaká was suspended as a result of the incorrect decision.

The events of Sunday, June 27 will be impossible to forget for fans of England and Mexico. Frank Lampard’s legitimate goal against Germany, which may have had a profound effect on the outcome, was not given. A simple television replay would have given the referee the information required to make an informed decision. Goal-line technology has long been advocated by a large number of managers at both club and international level. A system similar to the famous Hawkeye technology  used in cricket and tennis matches could be utilised to great effect by FIFA. For some, the solutions are even simpler. Mark Ogden, The Daily Telegraph’s Northern Football Correspondent, shared a rudimentary, yet effective, idea via his Twitter page.

“Sandpit behind the line. If the ball is in, it will stop dead and won’t bounce. Simple.”

The suggestion initially seems laughable. On second look, it appears more sensible than ridiculous. In any case, it marks a marked improvement on incorrect or unfair decisions.

Sepp Blatter’s repeated rejection of calls for television replays are folly. Blatter, who once remarked that “we must never stop the match with videos or monitors to look at what has happened”, is clearly not a fan of other sports. Almost every other major sport has some form of “video referee”. In American football, coaches are given flags. In cases where a questionable decision is made by a the referees or umpires, the coach may throw one of his limited number of challenge flags onto the field and call for the referee’s decision to be ‘sent to the booth’. The match referee then consults the video replay and reevaluates his previous decision.

The apparent infallibility of referees in association football is misguided. As Carlos Tevez wheeled away in jubilation at having scored the opening goal in the Round of 16 match against Mexico, replays on the scoreboard at Soccer City showed how the Argentine was offside when Lionel Messi played the crucial assist to him. The fans, players, coaching staff and officials were instantly given access to a view at what had actually occurred. Mexico’s players were particularly incensed. They, rightly, angrily confronted Roberto Rosetti and his assistant. Having seen their mistake, the officials should have been given the authority to reverse the  decision. They were unable to do this. Mexico, demoralised by the goal, promptly conceded a second through a defensive error which may or may not have been the result of a lapse in concentration stemming from the earlier refereeing error.

The safety and welfare of referees is threatened by their inability to correct their mistakes. Referees have been targeted by tabloid campaigns and, far more worryingly, death threats. In the interest of fairness and in the interest of safety for their referees, FIFA must take positive action towards implementing corrective technology no matter what form that may take.


3 responses to “Technology debate rekindled in wake of questionable decisions

  1. The International Football Association board’s decision to say no to video technology back in March remains truly mystifying. Yes, both England and Mexico were denied by poor officiating calls, but this is exactly why video technology can help the credibility of the game. Match officials are human – they make mistakes. As if all those people who are so quick to criticise have never made a mistake themselves!

    However, it is simplistic to say England would have won if the goal had been allowed (although they might have done). We can’t just blame the linesman, or even Capello. Other people need to take a hard look at themselves – starting with the players. Here are my thoughts specifically on England v Germany and the inevitable post-mortem:

  2. There is a high possibility that the 2010 World Cup could be Sepp Blatters oil spill. His career has been a constant series of lurches from one controversy to the next, and he is certainly in the mire with the this one.

    If another issue associated with technology – the ones he has implemented or the ones he hasn’t – comes to the fore there is a strong chance he will be completely discredited. Especially if it affects the result in a later round.

    I don’t believe England or Mexico would have been saved by technology. England were abject and Mexico outplayed but nevertheless the incidents should never have been allowed to happen and politics and money and profile should not have been the main determinants for why change was not instigated for this world cup.

    This could turn out be the controversy world it certainly was for England

  3. An interesting point was made by Gabriele Marcotti during Mexico v Argentina. What would have happened had Rosetti and his assistant, having seen the replay on the stadium’s screen, reversed their decision. Sepp Blatter would be in a quagmire then. It would have been an incredibly bold move and career threatening move by Rosetti and co so I can’t blame them for not giving it a go.

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