Has goal-line technology opened 'Pandora's Box'?

Jul 6, 2012

As British papers praise Fifa's decision, critics attack move as a 'farce waiting to happen'

IT'S BEEN a long time coming after decades of 'ghost goals' and heartbreak for fans, but yesterday Fifa finally approved the use of goal-line technology, raising the possibility that the Premier League could adopt it as early as next season.

Two systems, Hawk-Eye and GoalRef, were unanimously approved by the International Football Association Board. The first uses six cameras in the goal to triangulate the ball's exact location, while the second uses a ball with a microchip and a magnetic field. Both passed Fifa's requirement of being able to tell refs in less than a second whether a goal has been scored.

The technology will be first used in December's Fifa Club World Cup in Tokyo, where Chelsea will compete, and may be adopted by the Premier League during the 2012/13 season.

Alex Horne, the FA's general secretary, called the move "a hugely important day" for football and said: "In principle, as long as all clubs agree it could be introduced part-way through the season."

British papers praised the decision. "Over the line (finally)," said the Daily Mail in a headline, while the Mirror called the technology "Lampard's Law!" The paper explained: "It was Frank Lampard's 'goal that never was' against Germany in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup that saw FIFA president Sepp Blatter – previously the staunchest opponent of the idea – alter his stance and force through the overdue changes."

About time too, said Andrew Warshaw of The Independent, pointing out that it is "almost half a century after Geoff Hurst's controversial goal helped England win the 1966 World Cup". He said the "ultra-conservative" decision makers had finally caved in after the technology won support from "a majority of clubs, players, fans – and even the referees themselves".

On Twitter, QPR hothead Joey Barton wrote "at last, better late than never. Great news," while radio presenter Danny Baker tweeted: "Football will become that much fairer. And a whole lot duller."

Away from the vindication felt by the UK media, there were voices of dissent. "Will FIFA regret opening technology can of worms?" asked CNN, arguing that a footballing "Rubicon" had been crossed.

"If technology can be used to adjudge whether the ball has crossed the line, why not for debatable offside decisions or incorrect red cards?" the broadcaster wondered. "And why shouldn't managers be allowed to challenge decisions as they do in American Football and tennis? Pandora's Box has been well and truly opened."

That point was taken further by a writer on American sports blog Bleacher Report, who called the decision a "can of worms" and a "farce waiting to happen". He took the latest 'ghost goal' controversy, Terry's behind-the-line clearance against Ukraine in the Euros, to explain why goal-line technology is no silver bullet.

"Hawk-Eye or GoalRef would have succeeded where the human eye failed," he wrote. "But they would not have been able to tell us that the referee's assistant missed an offside in the buildup to the incident. So technology would have inadvertently rewarded a wrong decision."

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