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FIFA need to stop turning a blind eye to Hawkeye


FIFA believe that adding two extra match officials to football games helps referees to make acurate goal-line decisions while maintaining the ‘human face’ of football. AFP

IT’S Wimbledon finals day. Roger Federer is serving to become champion for the seventh time. Across the net Andy Murray awaits. Federer serves. It looks wide. The line judge says it’s good. Federer sinks to his knees in celebration, Murray looks disconsolate. “It was a good foot over the line,” he screams at the umpire. It is too late.

This should never happen in tennis, not any longer. Due to the use of Hawkeye technology, Murray could challenge the decision, providing he hadn’t used up all his appeals already. The umpire, the match referee and all the spectators could watch a replay on the big screen. Federer would celebrate or Murray would fight on, but either way justice would have been seen to be done.

Not so in football. Lampard’s goal that never was and Tevez’s offside goal are the latest in a catalogue of high-profile errors made by officials.
Australians still complain about Italy’s dubious penalty four years ago. The French only made it to these finals courtesy of Thierry Henry’s double-handball goal against Ireland.

So why does FIFA refuse to yield to the ever increasing clamour for the use of video technology?
Answer: It would slow down the game.

Manufacturers say that by inserting a microchip into the ball information as to whether the ball had indeed crossed the line, as in the Lampard case, could be relayed to the referee within 0.5 seconds. That is quicker than most referees take to blow a whistle.

FIFA voted against experimenting with new technology in March. Instead UEFA president Michel Platini champions using extra officials behind each goal, as trialled in last season’s Europa League. Although four eyes might be better than one, it takes much longer than 0.5 seconds for two officials to consult over whether a ball has crossed the line, especially with 10 irate players clamouring for a goal. And they can still make mistakes.

Other sports have natural breaks; referrals would ruin the flow of the beautiful game.

In tennis, the number of appeals is limited to three per set. In football, FIFA could limit the number to three per match. This could be further limited to only one in the final ten minutes, thus minimising the risk of coaches using referrals to kill the game. If FIFA were really worried about the ebb and flow of football, why doesn’t it outlaw any substitution in the last five minutes of the game, or players deliberately dribbling the ball towards the corner flag?

Mistakes are the ‘human face’ of football, says FIFA President Sepp Blatter. To introduce technology would be to make the conditions of play different from that played out in parks across the world.

Professional football is now a multi-billion dollar industry. It is far-removed from the football played in parks on Sunday mornings across the world. Modern technology can be used to ‘improve’ the ball, but not to assist referees in making the right decision. I can’t imagine many Irish fans nodding in agreement with the FIFA president after cancelling their flight plans to South Africa.

To err may be human, but to turn a blind eye is not divine. It’s long been overdue for FIFA to embrace the technology widely available in other sports and stop burying its head in the sand. Blatter has announced that the use of video technology will be considered in July, let’s just hope that the human face of football has eventually come to its senses.

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