Football does not deal well with change. An opposition to the norm is rejected initially, even if everything suggests that change is the way to go. Perhaps this is because people in general don’t appreciate change a lot of the time, but it is glaringly obvious that the football community do not take well to being told that the current situation is not perfect. The endless debates show us that.
The hottest discussed topic at the moment is technology. After years of excuses and stuck-in-the-mud thinking, there has eventually been the introduction of goal line technology at the elite level of the game. And, lo and behold, it’s clearly been an improvement on the previous setup with the technology working efficiently and accurately.
Technology needn’t be considered some dark art. It simply is a means to decrease the regularity of poor decisions. And that is surely an aim we can all get behind. Chat about refereeing decisions will still be present (don’t worry those of you who love some controversy) but the referees will be able to make the decisions with full understanding of what happened.
The argument against introducing further technology to football (video replays specifically) largely centre on the idea that it will slow the game down. It may, of course, cause the occasional delay, but that is a small price to pay for making sure that referees have all the information available to them. For those who are regular watchers of other sports, the ‘delays’ generated by the use of technology are often the most dramatic moments in a match. Now, we don’t want referees – particularly those notorious for loving attention – announcing their decisions like a reality TV presenter, but the tension of awaiting a big decision would add to the spectacle, if anything.
Football is behind the times, simply put. MLB, NFL, rugby, tennis and cricket have all embraced technology. Of course there have been teething difficulties at times and adaptations to the number of reviews or procedures, but it has been an overwhelming success in general. For those who fear the loss of controversy, do not fear. Major League Baseball still has its fair share of debate over decisions, as does rugby and NFL. Football refereeing is not an absolute science, there will always be differing opinions, but the world governing bodies of the sport must keep up with the times and enable referees to have all the possible tools.
Money is no issue at the top level of football. Hundreds of millions are given to clubs for shirt sponsorship, television deals are growing by the contract, but there is a failure to accept change for the improvement of the sport. Financially – at the very highest level – it is a no-brainer, it would be easy to install and take effect almost immediately. Technology in sport is one of those things that people will bemoan as a concept, but very few will reject it once implemented. In the other major sports using technology on a regular basis, there are tweaks required – whether it be umpire’s call or the number of referrals a team can use – but it is embraced.
Football’s popularity is not under pressure, which is one thing FIFA have managed to retain. Just because fan bases are vaster and revenues enormous, that does not mean that the sport should not look at other sports for ways to improve. It is a big step initially, but it is a leap towards a significant improvement in the sport as a whole. Change will be rejected by swathes of the footballing community, of course, and that provides its own challenges. Change, in this instance at least, is a positive, though.
The idea of implementing technology causes tension, yet the issues will all be forgotten when it is improving the decision making for people’s favourite teams.