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Is there a need for more technology in football?

Millions of dollars are being spent on football, shouldn't more technology be part of the game?

Brazil Peru Copa America
The Brazil and Peru players argue with the referee during their Copa America clash

The Copa America 2016 was expected to be a tournament where the big guns progressed to the finals. Suffice to say, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, to an extent, were the favourites but the performance of the Samba boys let most of their supporters down and the 1-0 loss at the hands of Peru saw them exit the competition.

While the performances of the team raised a few eyebrows, there was one particular moment which has been spoken about since the exit of the five-time World champions. Peru got the goal through a controversial handball by Raul Ruidiaz.

As soon as the ball went in, the Brazilians charged towards the referee, some even towards the linesman aggressively gesturing that the Peruvian had committed an offence. After a long deliberation, the goal stood but replays suggested that the action was more “hand to ball”, meaning that the Peru player knowingly moved his arm to get an unfair advantage.

Brazil centre-back Miranda was quoted by the Guardian and stated that the referees didn’t see the blatant handball.

“We saw that the ball hit his hand but you can’t complain,” he said. “[The referee] said he discussed it with four officials and that they didn’t see the handball.”

There weren’t any officials on both sides of the goal, which we have seen in the Champions League during the 2015/16 season but how many times have we seen those referees give a penalty or a decision when the main referee has missed it?

You would be hard pressed to find any match where these officials gave a decision for any team and it begs the question, should we have more technology in football matches?

The technology is there but isn’t being implemented

The 2013/14 season of the Premier League saw the inception of goal-line technology with Hawk-Eye being approved for all 20 sides playing in the top division. Momentum gathered to introduce this technology after it was used successfully in many other sports, including cricket and also a range of high profile errors during the big tournaments.

The biggest error that comes to recent mind would be the 2010 World Cup where Frank Lampard thought his “goal” had brought England level against Germany but it wasn’t given and the Three Lions eventually lost 4-1 and were knocked out of the competition.

Frank Lampard Germany World Cup
Frank Lampard’s goal was not given by the referee

The concern when introducing new technology in a sport is the effect it could have on the dynamics of the game. Many voices suggested that the introduction of Hawk-Eye technology in football would slow the game down but the decision is taken within a second or two if the ball does cross the goal-line.

This is a more black and white issue than any other decision which has to be taken in a game of football, either it is a goal or not. Obviously, this technology could have helped out in the UEFA Champions League clash between Chelsea and Liverpool all those years ago but what about the other decisions needed to be made by the officials?

Also read: 8 incidents that would have never happened had video technology existed

Consistently we have seen the referees miss some rather horrific challenges and the issue of the handballs still has to be dealt with. The novel way of fixing this is to introduce the TV official, TMO (TV Match official)  as it is called in Rugby, as there already are a ton of video cameras at least in the top stadiums of the world and no one wants to see a game decided by a controversial decision.

More technology would disrupt the flow of the game

That statement has been used by many to stop the introduction of more equipment into football. While sports like basketball and ice hockey, even field hockey have the use of television officials to make the big calls, football’s big wigs have constantly shied away from the use of video replays during games.

TMO Rugby
A referee signals to the TMO during a rugby game

Sepp Blatter had flip-flopped earlier about the idea of allowing managers to have a couple of “challenges” per game which could be flagged to the official. If a manager would disagree with a decision, he could ask for a review with the TV referee. But again, this would affect the dynamic nature of football.

Imagine a situation when a player is tackled in the penalty area but the referee misses it out. The opposition takes up the ball, counters and scores a goal within a few seconds. You could have the manager furiously waving out to the fourth official and the game would have to be stopped, replays would have to be checked out and then a decision would have to be made if the original call in the penalty box was right or not. What would happen to the goal that the opposition “scored”?

As quoted by ESPN, Michel Platini was not happy with the idea of bringing in more technology, "The arrival of technology for me was a problem. I was not against goal-line technology but I was against further technology, because you begin with goal-line technology but then you have to have offside technology, penalty technology -- and that is the end of football for me.

"If you have 10 offsides each side per game, then 20 times the game has stopped. It would be a disaster if it goes further. Football is an ongoing game."

The former France international does make a good point, after all, who would want to watch a game where there is a stoppage in play and you see managers constantly challenging the officials?

The best comparison which can be done is with Rugby. The sport does have the use of television officials and even if the officials do take more time to reach a verdict, it is for the betterment of the game.

Rugby, however, does not allow for a manager to challenge the referee’s decision to call for a review and that could be implemented in football. There still are some calls which aren’t black and white, leading to more debates about the usefulness of cameras and video replays. Even tennis has seen the use of Hawk-Eye and has led to more right decisions than wrong.

Time to usher in the changes

The only thing constant in the world is change. Football might still be the same sport that has been played for ages but avoiding the use  of technology and not incorporating it into the sport leaves it in the dark ages.

Goal-line technology was just a small step in bringing in a more level playing field, the use of television replays and extra officials is a must if the sense of fairness is to be maintained in a sport played by billions across the world.

The technology is there, the people are there to implement it, so why not use it? Sure it might disrupt the flow of the game a bit but every game needs to be constantly evolving. I would rather see a game which is decided by the right call made by a referee after going through a review process than one which is decided by a controversial moment.

Sure we will lose out on those water-cooler discussions about referees being biased towards a certain club but at least there would be no feeling of injustice for either team.  The technology is there, the money is there to implement it and getting a decision right should be the most important part of the game.

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