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On air: Should all sports at the top level embrace video technology?

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Ben Sutherland Ben Sutherland | 16:23 UK time, Monday, 28 June 2010


This topic was discussed on World Cup Have Your Say on 28 June 2010. Listen to the programme.

There's passionate debate about video technology in sports following yesterday's disallowed goals in the World Cup. Many sports including tennis and rugby have embraced instant replays for a number of years. Baseball has resisted, as has Fifa, soccer's governing body.

Is it time to introduce technology across the board? Does it create a fairer game? Jim Litke is not convinced while Chris Young makes the case against FIFA's technophobia. 


Well, it's not the first time we've had this debate.

Both of Sunday's second round matches - Germany's 4-1 routing of England and Argentina's 3-1 cruise to victory over Mexico - featured a decision that undeniably turned the game and that, were video technology a feature of the sport, would certainly have been reversed.

In the first, Germany had just been pegged back to 2-1 before half-time in Bloemfontein when a Frank Lampard shot rose over Manuel Neuer and bounced down over the line. The spin on the ball sent it ricocheting back up onto the crossbar and down into Neuer's arms.

The referee and his assistant waved play on. Lampard's face was a mask of incredulity, but England went in at half time still a goal down - which would later become three.

Meanwhile a very different set of circumstances was at play as Argentina's Carlos Tevez stole in to score his team's first - despite being demonstrably offside.

Indeed, how offside he was was literally demonstrated to the entire stadium, when by mistake the goal was replayed and the entire crowd was able to see the extent that Tevez had strayed. By that point, however, the goal had been given - and there was nothing, not even the Mexican players pleading with the referee to look at the screen, that could be done to change it.

Two massive decisions, then - and two that were clearly incorrect. The big debate, then - yet again - is whether it is time for Fifa to re-examine the case for technology in football to aid decision-making.

This is not to argue that but for those decisions we would be looking at an England-Mexico quarter-final rather than Germany-Argentina. Clearly the dominant - and better - sides in both matches won through.

But here's Frank Lampard on his effort:

"It was a clear goal - 40,000 knew it and I knew it, but there were two people that didn't. It certainly affected the game and we're bitterly disappointed."

But back in March, in the aftermath of the Thierry Henry handball incident that secured France's qualification over the Republic of Ireland, Fifa's International Football Association Board were unequivocal.

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke confirmed:

"The door is closed. The decision was not to use technology at all. Technology should not enter into the game, it was a clear statement made by the majority of the IFAB. Let's keep the game of football as it is."

Fifa's point is that they are custodians of the game around the world, and at all levels. In theory, the rules should be exactly the same whether you are playing in the World Cup Final, or the second division of the Zambian league.

Clearly the introduction of costly technology would change that forever.

And in contrast to England, Mexico's coach Javier Aguirre seemed to accept that bad decisions were part of the game:

"I told the boys, heads up, stand proud and tall, be calm and cool, everyone is human. Referees have to make spit-second decisions and they can spoil everything, it happens."

While it is pointed out that such technology exists already in tennis, cricket and rugby, those sports are all more stop-start than football, and with more opportunities to appeal a decision without breaking the flow of a match.

Football is not golf, where a player is expected to own up if they benefit from something not being spotted - even if it costs them a title. Players are being sent onto the pitch to fight for their country's pride and honour; they are hardly going to want to be the one who says, "actually ref, I think I was offside..."

With so much at stake in a game, is the only fair way to make decisions at the top level through technology? Or are controversial rulings as much part of the game as an unpredicatable pitch or bad weather?

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