Tuesday, June 29, 2010

FIFA and goal line technology

Following an obvious (to all but the referee and line judges) but disallowed goal by Frank Lampard in England's 4-1 loss to Germany in the Football World Cup, FIFA's president Sepp Blatter has now accepted that there may be a place for goal line technology. The argument given by FIFA in the past is that such technology would unduly disrupt the flow of game and possibly prevent the opposition scoring from a counter-attack. However, as was often seen in other sports that are now using technology to determine outcomes, when replays of events show within seconds whether the officials have made the correct decision, it is the refusal of governing bodies to embrace its use that undermine the authority of officials and not the other way around. However, whether FIFA are serious about reconsidering their position that they so definitively took in March, or whether they are merely trying to sooth the sore feelings of those on the receiving end of an incorrect decision is up for question, as they have also said that instant replays of controversial events should not be shown on the big screen. It follows a goal by Tevez for Argentina against Mexico which stood despite Tevez being considerably off-side before he played the ball. It led to confrontations between opposing players after it was immediately shown on the big screen in the stadium. If technology was used to assist the making of decisions then this ruling would not be necessary.

Interestingly enough, I am always surprised by the way in which my students tend to side with FIFA's position on this. The reason they give for not implementing goal-line technology? That controversial goals and decisions provide something for them to argue about in the pub after a game. If they really want subject to argue about, then I can think of much better ones...


Emily Ryall said...

The seven arguments that FIFA gave for not allowing the technology are as follows:

1. so that the game is the same whether it is played by kids in a local park or whether it is on the international stage.
2. even with technology, humans have to make the final decision which could still prove controversial so wouldn't solve any problems.
3. fans like to have a debate over the controversial decisions.
4. it will undermine the quality of the referees (as they would be able to abdicate responsibility for making correct decisions)
5. the technology is too expensive
6. testing the effectiveness of the technology and deciding which technology to use is expensive
7. the dynamics and rhythm of the game: a scoring counter-attack could no longer happen if play was stopped to for a replay of events.

All of these arguments seem to be seriously flawed (although #7 seems to be the most reasonable).

Mike Austin said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I agree that all of the arguments are flawed, and that 7 is the best. With respect to the dynamics and rhythm of the game, I wonder if it could be preserved by not stopping play, but having a replay official review the film and stop it only if a goal was scored, with a time limit on the decision. With the right technology (like the NHL) it doesn't seem like it would take too much time to make such judgments.

Andrew said...

I think 5, 6 and 7 are the only ones that have any weight at all...Regarding 7, I think something could be done to review the play once the play has 'stopped
...just as the ref. can decide not to call a foul if doing so takes away an advantage given to the would-be penalized team.

Herman said...

Over the course of this tournament FIFA is (hopefully) coming to realize with what many other sports have already learned. The speed and level of balance/competitiveness that exists in today's elite sporting events has simply eclipsed the expectations of observation-and-reporting by unassisted human referees.

Imagine for a moment if an unassisted human referee was expected/required to determine the outcome of the now famous Phelps - Cavic finish in the 100m Butterfly at the 2008 Olympics. That would be absurd.

Think how many swimming, sprinting, or skiing events would either result in ties or worse have the 'wrong' winner crowned. There's a time and a place for using human referees and there are times to augment their abilities.

I don't buy the 'flow of the game' argument as this concern is easily addressed. Tennis and ice-hockey both have found (relatively uncontroversial) ways to deal with this issue. Also, the 'flow of the game' is regularly manipulated by coaches and players alike.

I'm quite surprised to hear that students agree with the 'gives us something to discuss in the pub' position.

Also, the 'don't show controversial calls on the big screen' position is silly. People in the stadium -today- expect to see the goals replayed. That's part of the 'experience' that is FIFA's actual product. If the concern is motivated by the assumption showing what happened will cause unrest/riots, then certainly there should be some higher - demonstrable - effort to make sure that the calls are 'correct'.

Finally, don't forget the 'uncalled' goal that Brazil scored against the US in last year's Confederations Cup final. All of this in a game where a single goal is routinely the margin of victory.

Not great, FIFA. Not great.

Emily Ryall said...

FYI, I've attempted to address the seven reasons that FIFA have given for not implementing goal-line technology here:


Piter said...

There is no alternative to goal line technology

Goal line Technology.Graham Poll about stupid and stubborn FIFA.
Legendary ex-international and premiership referee Graham Poll answers questions about Goal line Technology.

Goal-Line Technology.Ridiculous FIFA. Frank Lampard's Disallowed Goal - RTE Sport

C.P.F. said...

I believe that the referee is part of the game, just like the players and coaches and the audience.
If the goalie has a bad day, the defense has to make up for it, and the offense has to score one more goal.
If the whole team has a bad day, the fans have to step up and the coach has to yell at them in half time.
If the referee has a bad day and does not make calls then the team has to adapt to the situation and be conscious of their decisions making and how to approach the referee.
The referee is part of the game and the decisions he makes are affecting the teams. It is up to the team and the coach and the fans to work as a unit to adapt to ever changing situations.
That is why there are hidden fouls, pulling, yelling, talking smack, provoking, that is also part of the game and everyone has to deal with it. The team that deals with those factors the best wins, not the team with the best athletic abilities.
So the call of a referee needs to be part of the game, even the wrong calls are just as necessary as the right ones.
If you want to test athletic ability in a completely objective way, then maybe weightlifting is the sport to go to, or some other standardized sport.