Players want it, fans want it, and even the majority of referees want it. And so, we are led to believe, does FIFA president Sepp Blatter who appears to have changed his mind and finally seen the light after years of blinkered opposition.
But are we really certain that goal line technology is any closer to being introduced?
In recent weeks, Blatter has let it be known that goal line technology could be with us by the start of next season and certainly by the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At least two systems – Hawk-Eye, widely used in cricket and tennis, and a micro-chipped ball – are understood to be the front-runners.
The decision now rests with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the game’s lawmakers made up of FIFA and the four British associations. The only body that is allowed to implement new rules, the IFAB’s next meeting is in March next year.
But before we all get too carried away by the powers that be bowing to global pressure, let’s take a step back. I have seen first-hand how many times in the past the ultra-conservative IFAB have indicated giving goal line technology a fighting chance, only to perform a change of heart at the last moment leaving those who have spent a fortune on developing the technology shaking their heads in frustration.
There is a powerful reason why Blatter’s recent pledge may end up being a hollow one. Announcing that this time the IFAB will give the green light for some kind of electronic aid to decide whether the ball has crossed the line may sound good on paper but behind the scenes, Blatter is having to fight off the man who is destined by all accounts to eventually take over from him.
Michel Platini is totally utterly against the idea. As since Blatter, more than ever before, needs his friends, will he risk alienating Platini and, for that matter, his long-time ally Franz Beckenbauer who also fiercely opposes goal line technology?
Both prominent figures argue that instead of technology, football should press ahead with the alternative system of using two additional assistants – one behind each goal – which has been trialled as an experiment in this season’s Champions League and Europa League.
The idea was conceived by Platini but it seems highly unlikely that both methods would be allowed by FIFA to run concurrently. So which one will it ultimately be, goal line technology or two extra assistants? Interestingly, no sooner did Blatter re-iterate that goal line technology tests were making progress than Platini went on record again to state his continued preference for human eyes.
Platini’s point is that precious few incidents occur at either club or international level to justify spending millions on goal line technology. England won the World Cup final at Wembley in 1966 but debate still rages over whether Geoff Hurst’s goal crossed the line. Forty years on, at last year’s World Cup in South Africa, England suffered again at the hands of Germany when Frank Lampard’s effort was wrongly disallowed.
Platini says two swallows don’t make a summer but he is missing two important points. At club level, there are frequent instances of wrong refereeing decisions on terms of the ball crossing the line. Secondly, if goal line technology is too expensive, surely employing extra assistants everywhere comes under the same heading? Not only that. Ask any player or manager which of the two systems he prefers and almost invariably you get the same reply – and it isn’t extra assistants.
As for Beckenbauer, where his argument falls down is that football has moved on since his day. There is a lot more at stake and the pressures are far greater – as is the price of failure. It’s time Platini, Beckenbauer and other opponents realised that “For The Good of The Game” – the motto FIFA loves to spout – goal line technology should be introduced, as it would enhance rather than damage the credibility of our wonderful sport. The sooner is it introduced the better.