No one can forget the World Cup in South Africa this summer, where discontent over bad referee calls and the lack of technology to fix them often overshadowed the tournament itself. Some fans believed goal-line technology was on its way–after all, it’s used in sports as sleepy and staid as cricket and snooker. So why not soccer? Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, which is currently embroiled in a cash-and-sex-for-votes scandal, recently raised fans’ hopes along those lines. “It would be a nonsense not to open the file on goal-line technology,” said Blatter, 74.
But now, if an interview with Blatter’s European counterpart is to be taken at face value, it seems the file has been slammed shut. Michel Platini, the head of UEFA (once an international superstar and captain of France, now believed to be in line for Blatter’s job) was interviewed by the Scottish FA today. Goal-line technology would, he said, lead to “PlayStation football.”
What replays have to do with videogames is a mystery. Most televised matches now include at least three replays of incidents, such as goals, or fouls, from different angles. Japan’s bid for the 2022 World Cup includes a dazzling display of replay tech. And it was advances in technology that gave us the light-as-air (and hard to control) Jabulani ball. So why refuse technology that can help referees?
Meanwhile, Platini is advocating increasing the number of match officials, as in this season’s Champions League, with the addition of two further match assistants–one behind each goal. “One referee is not enough,” he said. “Not in the modern era where you have 20 cameras. it is unfair: the cameras can see everything but the referee only has one pair of eyes. Every time he makes a mistake, those cameras are there to focus on it.”
Whether Platini likes it or not, those cameras are here to stay. As is the potential for bad calls. The Frenchman, one of the best footballers never to lift the World Cup, called on clubs, fans, players, media and authorities, to be more responsible. By that, we assume he means being less aggressive to officials when they make a bad call. But football, as Bill Shankly said, “is not a matter of life and death… it’s more important than that.” At least, that’s what the fans think. Asking them to not get so outraged by bad calls is like asking strikers not to think about the goal. Surely it would be easier to stick three cameras in each goal and be done with it?