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Is Sepp Blatter for real?

So yet again that clever chap Blatter has done it again. For once managers, players, referees and pundits are all in agreement over something- screaming at the FIFA President to bring in goal-line technology and he’s decided to ignore them completely.

Anyone remember the Pedro Mendes ‘goal’ V Manchester United? The halfway line lob that Carroll fumbled over the line but it wasn’t given because the referee wasn’t Clark Kent and the linesman wasn’t Usain Bolt? Well after that, Blatter said that he would look into goal-line technology. This was 5 years ago, and we are still waiting. So what exactly has happened about the introduction of technology in those 5 years?

A poll on the BBC Sport website, taken on the same day as the incident, showed that 85% of just under 80,000 people believed that it was time that video technology was used in football matches.  The next day, BBC sport published a story that announced that the FA would support any moves to introduce goal-line technology into football. IFAB, the body that is solely in charge of rule changes to football, met on February 26, 2005 to discuss the introduction of video technology. It was agreed that it would be tested at the UEFA U-17 World Championships that year. It was announced in 2006 that it would be tested again at the 2007 World Club Championships after FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that it wasn’t successful enough at the 2005 Championships.

The method used at the U-17 World Championships was done by using radio transmissions to track the movement of the ball, however, this was deemed too inaccurate and Adidas and Cairos Technology began working on a new ball, (Adidas Teamgeist 2), for the 2007 World Club Championships. This ball would be built with a microchip inside the ball as well as radio transmissions. A wire around the pitch activates the microchip when the football crosses the line and data is sent to a central computer. An encrypted signal is then instantly sent to a watch worn by the referee where he can make an accurate decision based on these results.

Even though the technology is able to withstand bad weather and people kicking it, it is not without its problems. Some players, (such as Clarence Seedorf and Hugo Ibarra,) have complained that the new football is harder to control as its trajectory changes and some critics have questioned whether or not the technology would take away the human nature of controlling the game and believe that it could lead to players undermining the referee’s authority. Indeed, both FIFA and UEFA stated in 2006 that video technology would not be used to resolve offside disputes, penalty claims or off-the-ball incidents as it would stop the flow of the game. However, as the earlier mentioned BBC poll shows, the number of positives concerning goal-line technology outweighs the negative points against it. This is supported by former Premiership referee, Jeff Winter who believes that referees would welcome the introduction of technology:

“I think that all referees would welcome the introduction of goal-line technology. This is a subject of fact not opinion and the correct decision should be able to be dealt with correctly.”

The technology was called into action for the first time in the 2007 CWC when it showed that Gabriel Caballero’s shot for Pachucha did not cross the line in their 1-0 defeat to Etoile Sportive du Sahel.

With everything seeming to be moving forwards, in March 2009, Sepp Blatter put a halt to goal-line technology claiming that it had failed at the 2007 World Club Championships. Blatter explained the decision by saying that the microchipped ball had failed in one of the seven World Club Championship matches due to interference to the signal sent to the referee and that it would be difficult to implement the chip technology in the many types of football used around the world. Instead, the FIFA President announced that an additional assistant referee would be placed behind the penalty area for Europa League matches in the 2009/2010 season. This had been trialled at the UEFA U-19 European Championship Qualifying Tournament in October November in 2008. FIFA’s official Additional Assistant Referee document stated that the additional assistant would support the referee, identify infringements, reduce match-changing errors, deter players from committing infringements and finally; improve the game. (The last one was underlined.) The additional assistants would not be given flags but would be able to advise the referee via radio-communication.

So what was all that for? That’s right – nothing. Because on March 6, 2010, IFAB announced that they had voted against goal-line technology and what happened then? That’s right- yet another claim for technology was made as Liam Ridgewell scored but it wasn’t given by the referee or his assistant. According to Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, football will have to continue to accept such errors: “Technology should not enter into the game. It was a clear statement made by the majority of the IFAB. The main part of the game should be humans — players and referees.”

But that didn’t stop our beloved FIFA President from criticising referees in the media throughout those five years.

After the Mendes incident, in January 15, 2005’s copy of the Daily Mail; Blatter claimed that the linesman Rob Lewis should resign from his position and become a goalkeeper and on February 14th that year; Sepp hardly did himself any favours by proudly announcing at a workshop for World Cup referees in Frankfurt: “As long as I am Fifa president, there will be no video evidence. Football is a game with a human face and mistakes are possible from coaches, players and referees.” Good job that he then spent the next five years testing out technology for no apparent reason then.

Speaking about another incident at the 2006 World Cup, he then openly criticised the standard of officiating claiming that if better referees are brought in then better matches will take place.

“If we want better matches, we need better referees. We need to push for the professionalisation of the refereeing corps and spread the net in terms of who decides who the best are. FIFA owes it to itself, in its own flagship competition, to send out the best referees, even more so because hundreds of millions of players and referees around the world are watching what happens in Germany with the desire to improve themselves. Instead, instructions aren’t being followed consistently. When a coach complains to me that shirt-pulling earned his player a yellow card one night and nothing for his team’s group rivals the next, how am I supposed to respond?”

I’ll tell you exactly how you’re supposed to respond Sepp. By helping them. You want better referees? You can have better referees. There is enough technology in the world at the moment for Sky or ESPN to sit there and criticise every decision that a referee makes no sooner than he blows the whistle. So what if goal-line technology isn’t 100% yet? It can be improved while it’s in use! Or if you aren’t going to bring it out – then don’t sit there and openly slate every high-profile decision that goes wrong. If you aren’t a part of the solution, then you’re a part of the problem.

Written by Stephen Rudd

Article title: Is Sepp Blatter for real?

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