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Technology in football - is it really the answer?

The call for technology continues to reverberate around the footballing world.

For years, mistakes by officials with key decisions in games have readily been accepted.

Technology has been trialled and proved successful in other sports such as cricket, tennis and rugby. It gives the opportunity to alleviate crucial errors and ease the injustice felt by many.

But is it the answer to the sports problems?

Football is a results business with jobs and livelihoods on the line.

Pressure on managers

Tycoons continue to pump money into clubs in order to emulate the top sides. This increases pressure on managers to deliver immediate success to expectant fans.

Recently, referees in England’s top leagues have come under immense scrutiny after several gaffes, but in reality, they have been happening for a number of years.

Human error is a certainty in many walks of life, including football, and technology could ease the burden on what is seen to be an impossible job.

High profile mistakes include Frank Lampard's strike against Germany in the 2010 World Cup and Reading's ‘ghost goal’ at Watford in 2009. Both were glaring errors by officials that had a major impact on the outcome of each game and would have been rectified if technology was applied.

Talks are said to be at an advanced stage at FIFA with president, Sepp Blatter, weighing up the introduction of goalline technology within the modern game. Despite talks being well underway, there is no definitive answer at this stage.

Conundrum

With major events such as Euro 2012 and London 2012 just around the corner, the current conundrum involving officiating at present would suggest controversy is on the agenda.

Ex Premier League referee Jeff Winter, who has taken charge of several top flight games including the 2004 FA Cup final, agreed that goalline technology would be beneficial to the game.

Winter said: "I do not know of a referee who would not welcome the long overdue introduction of video technology."

He voiced concerns at how it could be incorporated into open play by saying: "A goal being scored is a matter of fact as opposed to opinion with all other decisions."

He stated that due to a 'lack of natural breaks' in football, it would be impossible to find the right moment to review situations, adding: "If you let the game continue whilst an assessment is made it could be farcical."

'Players need to be encouraged not to cheat'

Winter defended the standard of refereeing in England and claimed: "Referees have to get the major decisions correct but their task is made all the more difficult by the actions of players who adopt a win at all costs approach.

"Players need to be encouraged not to cheat. Retrospective punishments need to be applied to players and clubs.’

The FA currently operates a procedure in which technology is called for in the aftermath of games. If referees claim to have not spotted an incident, retrospective punishment is issued to offenders in some instances.

This is predominately used for cases of violent conduct and results in bans.

A recent example of this is Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic's three-game ban for an incident missed initially by officials but dealt with in retrospect.

Diving

Technology could also be utilised to stamp out the diving craze, which is currently a scorn of world football. Retrospective bans and fines issued via the FA could go a long way to putting an end to cheating in England.

Simulation is a major issue from grassroots level upwards, which many claim is ruining the game.

Scott Jackson, a 24-year-old amateur referee currently officiating in Plymouth, thinks the criticism of officials is harsh. He said: "Referees have to make an instant call on major decisions every week. There is a huge amount of pressure to succeed."

Football has managed without technology for centuries, but goalline technology seems certain to be trialled at the top level of the game in the near future.

By Mark Winspear 


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