European governing body take next step after linesmen's buzzers

LONDON: It can hardly be called an earthquake and in the words of satirical magazine Private Eye the world of soccer was not exactly rocked to its foundations on Thursday. 

There were certainly audible rumblings from UEFA’s Nyon headquarters in Switzerland, however, when the executive committee of European soccer’s governing body agreed to investigate how new technology might be able to help referees. 

The last innovation to help match officials get decisions right is so discreet that no-one can see it and it is hardly hi-tech. 

For the last 10 years, linesmen have pressed a buzzer on the end of their flag handles to send a signal to a sensor on the referee, which tells the man in the middle the linesman is waving at him. 

That is simple enough, but obviously does not help with, for example, controversial offsides, dubious goals, or dodgy goalline clearances. 

UEFA’s announcement was apparently made with the backing of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, which is almost more revolutionary than the idea of using new technology itself. 

Blatter’s mantra has for years been unyielding. His credo is that football, the game of the masses, must retain its human face – “a sport played for and by humans”. 

If a referee makes a mistake, therefore, it is all part of the game. 

After all, where would soccer be without controversies like the one surrounding England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany when Geoff Hurst’s shot hit the bar and bounced over the line – or not, depending whether you grew up in Birmingham or Berlin. 

Television replays have long enhanced the sports that use them – without any detrimental effect on the action. 

NFL coaches are able to challenge a referee’s decision by demanding a television re-run of the action. 

In rugby union and rugby league referees can ask for television replays of tries to see the ball whether has been touched down within the laws. Cricket umpires can ask for replays of decisions involving catches, run outs and stumpings. 

In essence, all those stoppages add to the tension of the moment. They also take a huge onus off the officials and certainly in soccer would help diffuse the vitriol often directed at the referee and his linesmen. 

There is also a myth that soccer is a non-stop game. There are lots of stoppages in a match for all sorts of reasons and the actual playing time rarely reaches 70 minutes out of the match’s 90-minute duration. 

UEFA are reacting to a request from the Italian FA that the game’s governors start to examine how technology might help the sport. 

UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson says that whatever technology is used should be suitable for football but in essence it boils down to TV replays. 

“I think everybody is in agreement that the flow of the game should not be interrupted, we don’t have time to analyse,” he said. 

“It has to be a technology that would be suitable for football. We will look into the matter to see if we can come back with solutions. It could be to see whether a ball has crossed the goalline or not, but I have difficulties to see the use of new technology in offside.” 

The reality is that mistakes will be made whatever system is used. 

Spanish doctor Francisco Belda Maruena said in Friday’s British Medical Journal that the human eye and brain are not even equipped to call close offside decisions correctly, while TV replays have never proved whether Hurst’s 1966 goal was valid or not. 

Admittedly there were only two cameras covering the game rather than the 500 angles available today, but the debate is set to continue for some time as UEFA start to test the waters. – Reuters 

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Stories You'll Enjoy