The world of international soccer may finally adopt technology to help officiate its games.
The most powerful man in soccer called goal-line technology a “necessity” Wednesday, only hours after Ukraine was denied what appeared to be a legitimate goal in its must-win match against England at the European Championship.
“After last night’s match GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote on Twitter.
Marko Devic’s shot in the 62nd minute of Tuesday’s match looped up off England goalkeeper Joe Hart and appeared to cross the goal line before it was cleared by defender John Terry. The official standing near the post didn’t signal for a goal, leaving the referee no option but to play on.
If the goal had been awarded, Ukraine would have pulled even at 1-1. But the co-hosts instead lost 1-0, a result that eliminated them from the tournament.
UEFA is using Euro 2012 to trial the five-official system that features a referee, two linesmen and two additional assistants beside the goal. It’s UEFA President Michel Platini’s preferred alternative to goal-line technology.
FIFA will decide on July 5 whether to approve the five-official system and either of the two goal-line technology systems currently being tested in England and Denmark.
Speaking at a media briefing in Warsaw on Monday, Platini said he expects goal-line technology to be approved at the IFAB meeting.
“Yes, Blatter will do it,” Platini said. “He will (introduce) the technology, but I think it’s a big mistake. … it’s the beginning of the technology, the arrival of the technology.”
Grant Wahl discusses the significance.
I don’t want to get bogged down in the particular side-details surrounding the call in this game. Yes, there was karmic justice, since the assistant referee also missed a Ukrainian offside in the build-up. And yes, it’s unfair to say that the goal-line mistake robbed the Ukrainians of a victory they needed to advance, since they would only have tied the game at 1-1. (At the same time, it’s also fair to say that the game at 1-1 would have been different.)
But don’t take your eye off what matters most: In one of the sport’s showpiece events, the ball crossed the line entirely and was not ruled a goal.
The exact same thing happened at World Cup 2010, when England’s Frank Lampard was robbed of a goal that clearly crossed the line against Germany. Even worse, Ukraine’s phantom “goal” happened with that additional assistant referee on the line.
You can see video of the play here; the English announcers admit the ball is clearly over the line, and reference the 2010 World Cup non-goal England scored as karmic balance. I was home for a couple of days last week after a minor medical procedure, and thankfully had the UEFA championships to help pass the time during the day when I couldn’t do much more than occupy the couch. I didn’t see this game, but I still feel invested in the result. As a proponent of instant replay in soccer and other sports, I applaud this development. I have never understood the attitude of people like Michel Platini, who prefer to let games be decided by fate rather than by what actually happened on the field of play. In almost any other context, when one is incontrovertibly shown to have erred, the normal reaction most of us have is “What can I do to ensure I don’t make that same mistake again?” Unless you’re a sports league president or the like, in which case you blather on about the “human element” and how it’s better to be failed by human officials than given a correct ruling by technological means. I just don’t understand the mindset.
Anyway. As Wahl notes, despite Blatter’s statement this is not a done deal. Adoption of goal line technology will require six out of eight votes at the International Football Association Board (IFAB), and it’s always possible there are enough reactionaries there to hinder progress. But whatever happens there, it seems that an important step forward has been taken. It’s getting a lot harder to stick your head in the sand about the technology that’s available and the need for it.