Peter Crouch tried his hardest to stop it going in when playing away on Saturday in Stoke. On this occasion he was successful. Not because it didn’t go in. It did (we think). He just didn’t get caught. Tedious innuendo aside though, are we certain it went in? Lots of cameras and lots of angles tell us that it most probably did. But we’re not 100% are we? The enthusiasm with which some talk about goal-line technology leads us to believe that this uncertainty might be all but eliminated, but given the high speed, fine margins we are talking about TV replays won’t guarantee a certain outcome.
The one thing the replay did provide some certainty of is that once you begin to pour over TV replays, a handful of other incidents are quickly brought to attention. Many commentators satisfied themselves that justice was done in the end since the replay shows a shove on Spurs keeper Huerelho Gomes. Although, hang on a minute… is that handball by Crouch? How comfortable is a fourth official going to be when attempting to make a sound decision when presented with such detailed evidence? So what do we think, free kick to spurs, penalty to Stoke, or a goal….or play on. Wait a minute…’play-on’?
Ok so I’m the referee and I have sneaky suspicion the ball crossed the line… I even put the whistle to my lips…but I’m not sure…hang on a minute, I can use the 6th official in the stand to check a replay from the TV…so do I blow my whistle now or wait for a break in play?…which could be a few minutes away… what if there’s a nasty tackle, what if Spurs score, what if Stoke score!? I’ll just blow my whistle now and we can watch the telly for a bit and put the kettle on… we could probably even go to an ad break.
It’s true what they say though, we do have successful examples of using TV technology in our other sports. The enthusiasm with which these examples are used to support the case for football is a little misleading though. Super League have done it well for years, cricket and tennis have too seen greater accuracy in umpiring decisions because of TV technology. But there’s a fundamental difference in these sports. Cricket and tennis phases of play last a matter of seconds and a break in play is inevitable – in fact it’s more breaks than it is play. Tackling in Super League also creates ‘natural’ pauses that allow a quick referral to TV replays – just to a lesser extent. Football has much longer phases of play and a referee would most likely have to stop play to avoid confusion – albeit disrupting the flow of a game (note. A more practical use of TV technology that would improve the game is to retrospectively punish players that disrupt the flow intentionally by diving and faking injuries).
But actually, how often are these unnatural stoppages really going to be needed? I am sure from memory I could count on one foot the number of times a season this debate arises. Sure, when it’s a big game the decision to use replays becomes a ‘no-brainer’, but how do we define the games that get the technology and the ones that don’t? Just televised games? Just professional games? Just the clubs, tournaments and FAs that can afford to implement it? Well anyway, once we have decided we’ll make sure the technology is put to good use…after all we don’t want it to just sit there waiting for a goal line clearance, it’s expensive. We could use it for other decisions, like throw-ins, off-sides, fouls… even lip-reading Wayne Rooney and giving him a good ticking-off for not being a role-model to all the wonderfully well mannered kids who idolise him. I can’t wait. The big match on Sunday would last hours. Pubs and clubs up and down the country could use similar technology to prove to other-halves that the game really did last that long and we didn’t just stay for an extra cheeky pint after the game.
Who knows how dull the game would become if after having stopped the game in full flow we have looked at HIGH DEFINITION replays from 86 angles to be certain that yes, Didier Drogba fell over like a bad actress but only after Rio Ferdinand stepped on his toe at a corner that wasn’t even a corner because it came from a throw-in that wasn’t even a throw in. But at least we got the throw-in right. The fine margins, the speed and the debate are what makes our national sport worth watching. If you can’t argue about bad decisions and slag off referees you’ll simply have to accept that the best team won, fair and square. How awful would that be?
Stoke v Tottenham MOTD Highlights