Is Sepp Blatter wrong again? I’m looking into it.

Sepp Blatter is wrong. Hardly a revelatory sentence. In fact I could blindly announce said statement every time the FIFA supremo made a public utterance and be fairly confident (by at least a margin of 90%) that I’d be bang on the money every time. This time however, the former president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders and current and seemingly everlasting FIFA head honcho has tempered his wrongness with a rightness. All be it a rightness that should’ve been a given 5 long years ago.

Blatter’s announcement that he and his illuminati brethren will “look into” goal line technology, but not consider video replays is kind of like the announcement that President Obama will “look into” human rights, but not even consider the prospect of universal health care. Video replays are exactly what should be being looked into now, goal line technology should’ve been implemented years ago.

In 2005, after the infamous Pedro Mendes winner that never was for Spurs at Old Trafford, FIFA started “looking into” goal line technology seriously, and as a result, the famed “ball and chip” thingy was developed. This monumental step forward was heralded the world over and Blatter himself claimed then that FIFA would trial the device at various junior competitions in 2007. Did they? No of course they didn’t. They did nothing and shelved the idea, as they more than likely will do this time.

Back in March when the IFAB ruled to permanently ditch the idea of technology in football, I registered my disapproval on this site, (which you can read here – writing;  “I’d expect more howls of consternation in the coming months as more errors are made, and I’d dread to think what would happen if anything dodgy were to occur at the World Cup. In fact no, I don’t dread it, I’d welcome it in fact, because it’s quite frankly getting absolutely ludicrous now and maybe only such a high profile and dramatic balls up (or across) would shake the arrogance out of these people”

Whilst it’s never nice to have your words come back and bite you so viciously on the back side, the fact the finality of the decision has now been reversed is somewhat of a comfort (well that, and the fact that England would almost certainly have gone on to lose anyway had Lampard’s goal actually counted.)

But the fact that the man who waged war on pantyhose back in the 70s has transferred this finality to the prospect of video replays has brought said disapproval bubbling back to the surface again. Sepp Blatter is wrong. As always.

Of the 473 bad refereeing decisions at the 2010 World Cup so far, only the one has had anything to do with whether a ball crossed a line or not. What makes this statistic even worse is that of these 473 (a possibly erroneous number) the overwhelming majority of them have occurred a split second before the play was stopped. FIFA has three default arguments it wheels out in a cart marked “archaic” when pestered for the umpteenth time with a plea for technology in football, and the first one is always that it would “break up the natural fluidity of the game.”

I don’t know how many football games Sepp and co watch, but your average football match runs unbroken for about 5 minutes. In fact when you add up all the stoppages in a game of football, you usually arrive at a sum of about half an hour. Not that this means football should be broken up more of course, or that the idea of constant enforced stoppages are at all a good thing to contemplate, but when you’re in a position where the game has already stopped, and the players on the field are actually increasing the length of said stoppage by arguing futilely with the officials, what harm can there possibly be in using said time a tad more productively.

Of the two occurrences on the 27th of June 2010 that forced Blatter to apologize to both the English and Mexican FAs, the English one was clearly the more scandalous. A ball actually crossing a line unseen is a far more unusual and unfair occurrence than your common or garden offside error, of which you’ll see up and down the world of football on a weekly basis. But of the decisions made that day by on the pitch – and pitch side – officials, the one made in the Mexico-Argentina game was unquestionably the most ridiculous.

We can be completely sure that despite it being incredibly obvious to even a blind agoraphobic badger, neither the linesman nor the referee in the England – Germany encounter knew if the ball had actually crossed the line. We cannot however, say the same thing in the other game. Because as the Mexican players encircled the linesman causing – wait for it – a prolonged stoppage in play, the incident was replayed on the in stadium big screen, prompting the lino to question, nay review his decision and consequently inform the referee. Whether he knew his error concretely or not, only he can say, but there was unquestionably doubt cast on the decision, and the reaction of the players, fans and officials in that instant all implied they were at least in some way aware an error had been made. Yet nothing was done. The referee, in full awareness of the contentiousness of such a ruling, ruled anyway, more in fear of his job and the arcane rules of the football illuminati than the principles of right, wrong, and justice.

Imagine, if you will, an extreme comparison. Say a judge was just about to announce a guilty verdict, but at the last minute was approached by the clerk of the court and informed that a video had come to light that exonerated the defendant completely. What if he was then shown this video instantly on an iPad? (Which would be a momentous occasion in itself – a useful application of the iPad.) What would you expect this imaginary judge to do in this instance? That’s right, ignore it completely and send the man down anyway. Of course. Pukka! According to Sepp and co evidentially. While the decision may not have spared the Mexicans the eventual Argentinean goal fest, it was never the less scandalous to award a goal in full, or even partial knowledge of it’s illegitimacy.

Almost every other bad decision you can instantly recall from this World Cup has similarly occurred with such a stoppage forthcoming anyway. Luis Fabiano’s lovely juggling display against the Ivorians. Kaka’s vicious act of standing still into someone’s face that same game. Fernando Torres’ Charlie Chaplain impression against Chile, itself an homage to the sterling earlier work of Daniel De Rossi. All of these have caused the play to stop. Quickly viewing any of these incidents on a pitch side monitor would all have taken no more time, and in most cases likely less, than the ensuing break in play they entailed anyway. If the officials had earpieces it could be done even quicker of course. Sorry what? They already have them you say? Oh right. Lovely.

The two other default arguments FIFA use are just as pathetic for the record. The game doesn’t need to be equal at all levels, and isn’t as it is anyway. I’ve so far failed to spot the under pitch heating, professional quality grounds staff, officials, floodlighting and footwear on Hackney Marshes. In fact I’ve failed to notice it at many professional lower league games too. Nor have I yet been aware of anyone’s job or livelihood riding on a Monday night kick about on Clapham Common. Maybe Blatter should try and make sure that’s all sorted out before he claims it would disrupt the utopian ideal of football to use tech at the very highest, stake crammed level. But it’d probably be too expensive. That’s another sub-argument proposed against technology too though isn’t it? Damn.

The thin end of the wedge excuse relies on the idea that once it’s in, there’d be no limiting its usage. This of course depends entirely on who is in charge and control of bringing it in and implementing it. Essentially FIFA are saying they don’t trust these people to not go mad. Except that these people would be them. Duh! So if they can’t trust themselves, why on earth should we? I don’t for the record, and I wouldn’t with a rubber spoon, let alone a multi million pound organization.

If, how and when to use video replays is admittedly a much longer discussion than I’ve relayed here. But it is never the less precisely something FIFA should be “looking into” at this juncture. Instead, they’re looking into something that should already be a mainstay by now. Thank god Blatter and co weren’t in charge of football at its beginnings, or we’d still be debating whether nets were a good idea or not.

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