The goal-line technology debate is a distraction – and we’ve fallen for it
Goal-line technology isn’t a debate that’s worth having. It’s about money, not whether it’s good or bad. The IFAB board, is 50% FIFA, and they’re thinking about how much it costs, nothing else.
FIFA’s arguments against technology have been widely criticised. Embracing the “human element” of football makes up the anti-technology position, rather than the actual argument for it. Similarly, the “universality” argument is half-formed: suggesting that technology separates the park game from that played in stadiums requires the substantiation that it’s somehow a crucial separation, but FIFA have rarely gone on to explain in detail. As pressure for technology has grown, the argument has had to be refined, but it remains easily enough dismissed. FIFA have questioned the suitability of goal-line technology, suggesting that football lacks the same breaks in play as other sports which have embraced technology. But Paul Hawkins, inventor of the Hawkeye system used in tennis and cricket, explains that those doubts about technology are no longer appropriate: “Goal-line incidents are the only decisions which are entirely definitive and the answer can be provided to the referee within 0.5 seconds of the incident happening.”
For the most part, this debate is a distraction designed to keep fans busy.
The technology is still set to be tested for another year at least. The Hawkeye system, in fact, will be tested for the first time next season with the suggestion from Sepp Blatter that it could make a full debut at the 2014 World Cup. All the time, arguments questioning the integrity of the sport become more compelling as other sports get more and more decisions right and players, managers and fans become more and more frustrated by wrong decisions that could be being got right. Initial hesitance over change is understandable, but by 2014 it will have taken more than four years to validate claims by the likes of Hawkins that the technology is ready.
Money must be in play. IFAB, the board responsible for rule changes, is made up of four FIFA votes and one vote from each of the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh FA’s. It’s not in the interests of any of these groups to push for change which will cost them money. FIFA is a non-profit organisation, but last month it announced profits of $4billion over the four years up to 2010. What’s more, it’s made up of 208 member associations including the four home nations, all of which have financial responsibilities, and who represent thousands of individual football clubs – clubs openly pursuing profit.
Change in football rarely occurs without profit as the incentive. Bringing in new technology may cost relatively little – which is probably why it’s happening at all – but it will never help generate profit and that’s why it will have taken at least four years for an integrity-saving change to come in. Those paying for reform wait as long as they can to get it at the best price they can – the point before pressure for change boils over and the overall product becomes tainted. Players, managers and fans can talk, but men like Sepp Blatter – men running football – listen to money.
Whatever your opinion on goal-line technology, you’re wrong.