Friday, 6 July 2012

A criticism of the use of Goal Line Technology in Soccer

Yesterday, 5th July, the International FA Board (IFAB) approved the use of Goal Line Technology in Football matches. FIFA have issued licenses to two different systems: Hawk-Eye and GoalRef. You can read more about the nuts and bolts about the decision here (but I suspect you’re already across this topic).

I don’t think that introducing Goal Line Technology is a good thing and below are my concerns.

I’m deeply suspicious of corporate involvement in the laws of football. While I accept that it is entirely likely that future injustices will be prevented thanks to Hawk-Eye I can’t shake the feeling that the real winners are Sony, who own Hawk-Eye which, I imagine but may be wrong, will be the preferred supplier to the all conquering Premier League. Perhaps one day, an investigative journalist will take some time to account for the lobbying process by the two systems that were trialed while IFAB deliberated.

However, my biggest concern about the use of Goal Line Technology is the rising costs involved with actually playing a game of football. I wonder whether the rare instance in which a mistake is made (and they are rare) is worth the additional expense to install and maintain equipment which may only be of value a handful of times in a season. Despite what we are repeatedly told, not every goal is crucial and not every unfairly disallowed goal costs millions of pounds/euro/dollars. I believe that the consequences of the occasional mistakes made by referees and their assistants, while frustrating at the time, are over exaggerated by a broadcast media who are largely in favour of technology in football. In fact the absence of plurality during the technology “debate” has been maddening.

Also, I’m concerned that the additional cost of the equipment will be passed onto the supporter. The equipment itself may be sponsored but the ongoing maintenance costs, energy consumption and labour required to keep it working costs money and may not be sufficiently covered by any sponsorship deal. It is possible that some of that cost will be factored into individual and season ticket prices, thereby raising prices and excluding more supporters.

Finally, I’m worried that Goal Line Technology is the thin end of the wedge: that the doors will be open for the use of video replays in football which is expensive, subjective and inefficient. It’s also boring and puts more money into the hands of the broadcasting industry who seem to be broadly in favour of its implementation, for some reason.

However, the decision has been made and Goal Line Technology is now officially a thing. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see many leagues refuse to take it up, or abandon it after a few seasons, on the grounds of it being too expensive and hardly ever used in anger. I could go into the problem of technology separating the elite level from the grass roots and undermining the universality of the game in the long term but it is difficult to substantiate this argument and it’s probably overstating the significance of technology and its affect on the game.

The best thing to do, for people like me who are opposed to Goal Line Technology, is to get over ourselves, move on and address the issues that will almost certainly arise from it, after it's rolled out, both foreseen and unforeseen. That should be good for a laugh.