Sunday 21 January 2018

Frank Malley: UEFA boss Michel Platini needs to show some of the flair that made him a football legend

UEFA President Michel Platini. Photo: Getty Images
UEFA President Michel Platini. Photo: Getty Images

IF UEFA president Michel Platini had been in England in the early 19th Century, he would doubtless would have stood shoulder to shoulder with Ned Ludd.

Wrecking the mechanised looms and stocking frames. Cursing the new cotton mills. Doing all in his power to hold back the technological advances which were so crucial to the industrial revolution.

That is, in effect, what Platini is doing with his head-in-the-sand opposition to technology in football.

He is intent on holding back footballing reform which is as essential as it is inevitable.

What is wrong with doing everything technologically possible to ensure the right decisions are made in a football match?

What is wrong with replacing the two quaintly named additional assistant referees at either end of the pitch in Euro 2012 and the Europa League, most of whom could not do less if they were made of stone, with video technology which is guaranteed to within a nano-doubt of getting every call right?

True, if such goal-line technology had been employed on Tuesday night then Ukraine would have been awarded an equaliser when Marko Devic's shot clearly crossed the line before being hooked away by John Terry.

And, who knows, buoyed by such an adrenaline boost and roared on by the home crowd, Ukraine might even have found the verve to go on to win and send England home.

We will never know.

What we do know is that an injustice was perpetrated in front of hundreds of million of viewers, all of whom knew within seconds of the incident that the additional assistant referee in question required a trip to his optician.

How did Platini attempt to justify his opposition to technology rectifying such a situation?

"Goal-line technology isn't a problem," he said. "The problem is the arrival of technology because, after, you'll need technology for deciding handballs and then for offside decisions and so on.

"It'll be like that forever and ever. It'll never stop. That's the problem I have."

So let's recap. Platini does not want to guarantee the right calls on goal-line decisions because it might lead to even more right calls in other areas of the pitch.

With logic like that he will go far. Unfortunately, the chances are it will be right to the top of the game considering he is the favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA.

To be fair to Platini, his concern is based around the fear that too many stoppages would disrupt the fluidity which is one of the most beautiful and appealing aspects of the world's most popular game.

Yet that simply would not apply to hair-line goal-line decisions which are crucial but relatively infrequent. Offside scrutiny would not be that intrusive, either, if only debatable goals were checked after the game had stopped and perhaps with the challenge system which works so well in tennis.

There is nothing wrong with change. Change is good, especially when justice is seen to be done. Especially if it consigned to history forever embarrassments such as Frank Lampard's disallowed yard-across-the-line 'goal' against Germany in the last World Cup.

Heaven knows, football has enough success stories to persuade it to dip its toe into the technology pool.

Tennis, cricket and rugby have all been enhanced by video refereeing. There is more drama, more interaction with fans, more respect, less pressure on officials, who so often are a figure of contempt in football having become the whipping boys for players and spectators alike.

It is time to take unnecessary heat off officials. It is time to do away with the additional assistant referees and employ some additional common-sense.

It is time Platini, who was top goal-scorer for France and player of the tournament in Euro 1984, began to display the imagination as a football administrator that he did so often as a player - and time he stopped acting like Ned Ludd.

Andy Hunt, top man at the British Olympic Association, insists manager Stuart Pearce is under no pressure to select David Beckham for the Team GB football team for London 2012.

"We have been very clear from the outset, it's absolutely Stuart's choice and he is totally free to make the selection of the team he believes will put in the best performance. It's as simple as that," said Hunt.

On that basis, 37-year-old Beckham should be nowhere near Team GB. So will the fashion-leading, money-spinning, Olympic ambassador and national footballing treasure which is Beckham play? Put your house on it. No pressure, of course.

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