Debate: Goal-line technology won’t stop the debate, but it is the right step forward for football

By Reece Lawrence

Even with the news that the Premier League has this week agreed to implement goal-line technology, the debate that never seems to end will still not be ending anytime soon.

From next season, all 20 top-tier stadia and Wembley will be fitted with the Hawk-Eye system that can tell a referee instantly if a goal has been scored.

Whenever the latest injustice is plastered onto our eyes by the football world, anyone who doesn’t support Manchester United has traditionally turned to their go-to goal-line howler – Roy Carroll’s unforgivable fumble of Pedro Mendes’ hoof from the halfway line at Old Trafford.

However, the reality is these equally unforgivable failures on the part of officials – though perhaps not on that scale – have affected most clubs at one time or another.

United themselves had a goal at Reading consigned to dust in December despite Robin van Persie’s strike clearly going over the line that today means more to clubs financially than it does emotionally.

Football has indeed moved with the times in financial terms, and the Premier League now acts as a significant economic beacon to the rest of sport.

If the sport can improve fiscally – which it has been doing for over 20 years since the inception of the Premier League – then there is no reason why the main practicality of the very game that brought in the money (simply deciding whether a goal has been scored) should not be advanced as well.

The league is wealthy enough to be able to apply the means by which football enters the 21st Century.

If he technology is available, why shouldn’t it assist in getting the decisions right? We have seen its tremendous impact in tennis and cricket, and the biggest sport in this country should not have to lag behind like an underprivileged forgotten relation.

The idea that human error is part of the game is a valid one, backed up by over a century of error-strewn football that never had a credible alternative (even the useless 5th and 6th officials wouldn’t have changed anything way back when).

However, when you’re denied the chance to equalise in a World Cup knockout tie against Germany, it’s unlikely you’ll be viewing it as a ‘game.’

Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ denied England a potential reprieve in that match, and while no one will ever know what may have happened, England would have been level at least.

There is simply too much at stake for uncertainty over goals – however rare it occurs – to continue, which is why this week’s decision makes absolute sense.

With £5bn to be pumped into the league and its clubs from next season as a result of the new broadcast rights deal, staying in the Premier League is a seismic achievement for those clubs who risk losing the monumental payments should they be relegated.

If Wigan or Queens Park Rangers, for example, were to be relegated by a single goal that had crossed the line but wasn’t given, or vice versa, no one would hear the end of it – in fact Bolton Wanderers still feel the injustice of relegation in 1998, despite scoring a good goal against Everton, who beat them to staying up by, you guessed it, one goal.

It may be unlikely, but fine margins exist in this sport (Manchester knows this all too well) and a potential situation like that highlights the fine balance between success and ending up like Leeds or Portsmouth.

The introduction of technology inevitably raises eyebrows over its role in other areas of the pitch, notably for fouls and offsides.

Whether a foul is deemed a foul, or even deemed reckless enough for a red card is down to human judgement, and will remain so until infallible robots replace the Phil Dowds of this world.

Yet judging whether a ball crossed the line is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, and for now this will satisfy many.

Problems remain, because with a multi-tiered league system lower league clubs will not benefit from this kind of help anytime soon.

Yet it is a step in the right direction – farces such as the ridiculous Watford v Reading ghost-goal, and head-scratchers such as Luis Garcia’s strike for Liverpool against Chelsea will hopefully become a thing of the past.

Although goal-line technology is less of a moral issue than, say, the shadows of racism, it is important enough to be taken seriously, and where the means are available, everything should be done to enhance this great game.

Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, with thanks

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