Friday 22 September 2017

Technology will work if right people do the job

Goal-line assistant referees have failed, says Errol Sweeney

At long last FIFA, the world controlling body for football, has come into the 21st century, albeit kicking and screaming.

At the International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting in Zurich last Thursday, they arrived at two decisions: one new, the other existing and confirmed. The first is the highly contentious issue of goal-line technology to indicate once and for all whether the whole of the ball crossed the line.

All of this in the wake of complaints and criticisms from opposing sides. The 'did it or didn't it' cross the goal-line arguments will be banished, for some games at least. After a nine-month experiment in England, Italy, Germany and Hungary, it was agreed to approve two methods. Hawk-Eye, which is used extensively in tennis and cricket, and Goal Ref, which was developed by a Danish and German study group.

These systems will be operational for the first time at the FIFA World Club Cup in December. If successful, they will also be used in the 2013 Confederations Cup and at the 2014 World Cup, both of which are in Brazil.

FIFA were keen to stress that this technology will only be used for goal-line incidents and nothing else.

It will also need a change to the following laws: 1 (The field of play), law 2 (the ball), law 5 (referees) and law 10 (method of scoring).

FIFA appear to have ruled out a TMO (television match official) sitting in the stand ruling on whether the ball crossed the line or not. The referee will wear a gadget something like a digital watch on his wrist which will flash, indicating to him whether the ball crossed the line or not. A ruling will be available within seconds.

The nature and make-up of the ball will also have to change. In the Goal Ref system a chip will be placed inside the ball to aid the technology involved.

Each stadium wishing to have this system installed will have to have it tested and approved by FIFA before it can be implemented.

The second decision taken at the meeting concerned the additional assistant referees (AARs).

It was unanimously agreed that these additional match officials would be retained following a presentation from the AAR coordinator Donald McVicor.

So now referees have an additional gadget to help control a game, plus the AARs. I have to ask, however, why are the AARs being retained? They were found wanting when it came to crunch decisions in the Euros. They failed on the two occasions when they were required to indicate whether the ball had crossed the line or not.

They are not allowed to make hand signals to indicate to the referee that something is amiss. Everything has to be done through their electronic gadgets. What happens if they fail?

I'm not convinced that it will cure the real problem. What is that problem? Selecting the correct people to do the job and getting rid of the ones who cannot.

The decisions on goal-line technology and the AARs come into effect immediately. Naturally, they will only be used where teams have the facilities and abilities to implement them. The rest of you will have to continue as before and good luck with that.

Errol Sweeney is a former League of Ireland and South African Premier League referee

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