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The Graham Shaw column‏ - Time for technology

Former professional footballer Graham Shaw heads up national law firm GT Law’s sports management division. Graham is a qualified lawyer and former Chief Executive of Stockport County. He made nearly 300 appearances in the Football League playing for Stoke City, Preston North End, Plymouth Argyle and Rochdale. Now every month Graham shares his thoughts on topical issues in this column for Total Football.

Surely the time has now come for technology to be introduced into football following yet another fiasco during the QPR v Bolton Premier League match.

Once again this has highlighted the fact that football is by far the biggest sport on the planet, on both a financial and spectator scale, that does not use technological assistance for officials.

Clint Hill scored a perfectly good goal for QPR that clearly crossed the goal line by two feet. However the assistant referee, who was in a perfect position, failed to see that it was a goal.

QPR went on to lose the game 2-1 and the threat of relegation with all of its financial disasters draws ever closer. In this day and age when there is so much at stake it seems crazy that a team and its supporters should suffer because of a mistake that with available technology is easily rectifiable.

In the last World Cup when we were all “singing for England” we had the ridiculous situation where everybody within the ground as well as watching on TV knew that Frank Lampard had scored a perfectly good goal for England v Germany but neither the referee or his assistants saw the ball cross the line by a huge distance.

Schoolboy error

This would have put England back in the game and level at 2-2 but instead they went out of the flagship event in world football due to a schoolboy error of the officials that would have taken mere seconds to rectify. It also means the “40 years of hurt” goes on and on and on.

Both UEFA and FIFA seem to have been holding out against the switch for years blocking football associations like the Scottish FA, who were looking to introduce it at a very small cost some years ago.

Whilst football dithers, other major world sports have embraced it to the point where it is integral to their respective flagship events.

All of tennis’ major organisations use the Hawk-Eye technology to determine whether balls are in or out during play which does not have any detrimental effect to the game in play.

American Football matches have long used technological replays to determine almost every aspect of the game to beyond any doubt as have Rugby and more recently Cricket, which has successfully integrated the Hawk-Eye technology to put beyond any doubt previously dubious game-changing LBW and edged catches decisions as well as disputed run-out decisions.

Still a valid concern?

The argument against such changes in football has long been that it would hinder the flow of the game and undermine the officials’ authority. However looking at how some teams time waste and the number of officials who seem whistle-happy, is this still a valid concern?

It is difficult to take any concerns seriously due to the success of the technology in other major sports at the top level and the acceptance of it by both the players and officials.

Surely it cannot be right to allow "goals" in top-level football to go unrecorded and results to be affected by some quaint notion that the officials are always right. The technology is such that replays could be viewed immediately by a fourth official who could transmit the result to the referee via his ear-piece and put the matter beyond any doubt.

There is virtually no other major sport in the world apart from football that does not employ technology to assist the officials in some way.

Of course football is about opinions and hundreds of radio phone-ins and columns like this rely on controversy for content. But surely when it is so clear a ball has crossed the line the only cause for debate is not whether we should have goaline technology but how quickly can we get it.

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