Give technology an inch in football, then eventually it will take a mile

I recently read that football shouldn’t be a game of ‘what ifs.’ The sentiment is an excuse, and can be refuted with old adages such as ‘you make your own luck’ or ‘decisions even themselves out over the course of the season.’ This is mostly true. But after Nani’s goal against Tottenham sparked a debate like no other, I started to think; what if?

Everybody has an opinion on what happened at Old Trafford on Saturday. Aggrieved Spurs fans are bemoaning the officials and Manchester United fans have the convenience of another age-old saying; play to the whistle.

Many have used the incident as a catalyst to re-explore the introduction of technology being used in football. The general consensus after Saturdays bizarre goal was if they used technology, Nani’s handball would have been spotted and Gomes could have restarted from a free kick. True. My argument would be if that was the case, though, what would we spend the rest of the week talking about?

Football is a fascinating sport which can be turned on it’s head with any number of variables, one of which being human error. But was Mark Clattenburg’s decision even an error? Did he merely interpret the rules differently to some people? Using technology to determine the ‘correct’ outcome of situations like these would go a long way to cancelling out any kind of debate many of us sub-consciously love to have. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could get quite so passionate whilst declaring Wagner should never have gotten so far in X Factor.
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But if technology does find its way into football, where do we draw the line? Many believe that it should just be used in the goal-mouth to determine whether the ball does cross the line or not. This would give us transparency on decisive moments, but what happens when managers start moaning about other pivotal decisions, like penalty claims which have been wrongfully given? FIFA will be under immense pressure to use the technology readily available and there will be no telling where it would end: free kicks, throw-ins, yellow cards. The game which puts us through a whole host of differing emotions could turn into a three hour replay which leaves nothing to chance.

This discussion instantly brings to mind Frank Lampard’s goal-that-never-was against Germany in the world cup. But even the most biased of England fans surely can recognise how inferior we were that day and the most probable outcome would have been a defeat even if the ball was deemed over the line.

Football has survived without the use of technology for so long and I don’t see the need to change that now. If the game did adopt the use of such facilities we would be left with no ‘bad’ decisions to hide behind, no entertaining post match interviews and very little to debate on a Saturday evening. Apart from X Factor, that is.

Football shouldn’t be a game of ‘what ifs’ but as long as this debate carries on, there will always be one ‘what if’ that worries me the most: What if football was boring?

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