Words: Paul Conlon
Being English we seem to be intrinsically linked with this evolving question. But instead of asking do we need this, should we instead be asking do we want this?
Blomfontein, Sunday June 27, 2010. With England having trailed an exciting and vibrant young German side 2-0 after little over half an hour in, Matthew Upson reduced their lead to a single goal in the 37th minute scoring with his head. It felt like the momentum was perhaps about to change. With it being England we perhaps should have known better. A few minutes later the ball dropped to Frank Lampard on the edge of the German box for him to connect with a lovely delicate lob over Manuel Neuer who was only a few yards off his line. Neuer was stranded, beaten. The ball glanced off the underside of the bar before bouncing clearly over the line for a goal, then back out. Lampard and Capello were positive they had equalised. Not so for the referee and his Uraguayan assistant. No goal, play on. In the end it was all relative. As usual England found themselves outplayed for the remainder of the game against one of the top sides and were soon on their way back home, early. Or perhaps late, depending on how much of the pre tournament hysteria you believed in the first place. But maybe we shouldn’t be complaining, perhaps we should just keep our mouths shut and get on with the game. After all, if goal-line technology had been available in 1966 we would possibly have to give back our one and only World cup victory, once again handing the crown to the Germans.
Perhaps the most infamous case in recent years would be Pedro Mendes’ effort for Spurs away to Man United in 2005. After the ball dropped to Mendes near the half way line he struck it on the half volley high towards United’s goal. It should have been bread and butter for Roy Carroll but it wasn’t. Instead it was breakfast for the tabloids. The keeper somehow fumbled the ball over his own line by a good meter before clawing it back out, a clear cut goal. But to Old Trafford’s and Carroll’s relief no goal was given. This wasn’t really a case for goal-line technology to be brought in though, more a case of you need to get your eyes checked mate. Since then the debate has raged.
But instead of the problem being with the technology itself or lack of it, shouldn’t we instead be questioning whether or not we really need these changes. That’s not to say that teams and their supporters don’t deserve games to be refereed properly and fairly but isn’t our love and passion for the game spurred on by the talking points. Take these away and what are we left with?
As a matter of fact there are 760 Premier league games played every season. How many of these incidents occur. I can recall Viktor Anichebe’s disallowed effort earlier this season for Everton against Newcastle but on the whole there are not many at all. Teams must regularly be penalised unfairly for bad offside decisions or other mistakes by the officials, a missed foul or handball for instance. There are without doubt more of this variety week in and week out but nobody is lobbying for post video evidence in these cases.
Most people will have seen the use of Hawkeye in tennis, one of the 2 firms in the running for the contract to preside over the goal line tech during Brasil 2014 by the way. And most people in the U.K will have seen rugby decisions replayed on the big screen for the referee, but are we missing the point. If as a football fan you went to work on a Monday morning ready to evaluate the weekend’s games and talking points only there were none, where would that leave our passion? How many Sunday afternoons in the pub, full of ribbing banter with vague acquaintances, all trying to outdo each other would have been missed? How many Tuesday or Wednesday nights in the comfort of your own home, in front of an embarrassed missus or kids while you hurl the vitriol at the TV screen would you not have had the pleasure or displeasure of experiencing?
This is football. Take them moments away good or bad. Vanquish the adrenaline. Douse the passion. Repress the humour. What exactly are we left with? This is probably the overriding reason for most of us watching the game since growing up with it. Yes you loved your team but more importantly it’s an escape. A debatable decision here or there may momentarily cause you to lose your usual joyful disposition but would you change this? Would you want to change the confrontational and emotional elements of this sport that make it so compelling, even when watching neutral games that shouldn’t mean anything to you personally but somehow they do?
I for one certainly would not.