Early Doors

Has goal-line technology debate crossed the line?

Early Doors

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As the ball stopped agonisingly short of the line, and Martin Atkinson blew his whistle for a goal, several things happened.

The FA Cup semi-final swung emphatically towards the way of Chelsea. Tottenham threw their hands up at the injustice of it all. The press sharpened their pencils. And Early Doors braced itself for the goal-line technology debate.

On the field and in the aftermath, we were treated to a rather apt metaphor for the debate: Repeated views from multiple angles, and still no entirely unanimous verdict.

To ED it looks like Juan Mata's effort should never have counted, but then again a handful have produced still shots which suggest the ball did in fact creep over the line.

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Well, was it or wasn't it?

This is the way of things. Every so often we witness a Pedro Mendes strike or a Frank Lampard World Cup goal or a Luis Garcia ghost goal in a Champions League semi-final which, we are told, 'reignites' the debate on goal-line technology.

But there really is no debate any more, is there?

Pedro Mendes' goal for Spurs, which went several feet into the Manchester United net before Roy Carroll got anywhere near making a stop, is now more than seven years old.

Every dubious goal since then has generated much the same arguments. The views are entrenched and the pros and cons have not changed.

Very few supporters are still making their minds up about whether it would enhance the game or not.

The people in power have also decided, with trials of Hawkeye and GoalRef in place and a decision on their reliability and implementation set for July.

Though it might not be in place for next season's Premier League, we can reasonably expect technology in place for events such as FIFA's Club World Cup in December and the Confederations Cup in Brazil in the summer of 2013.

FIFA and UEFA are slowly bowing to the mass outcry for the technology, then, but they do so warily.

Consider the words of UEFA president Michel Platini.

"Football has also based its popularity on injustices," Platini argued in 2011. "You can remember them and talk about them in the bars.

"You can talk about 1982, France-Germany, it was an injustice like the hand of Maradona or that of [Thierry] Henry [handballing against Ireland]. The notoriety also comes from negative things in football."

That might sound like precisely the out-of-touch nonsense that upsets most football fans, but there is a certain logic to it.

Sometimes what unites fans is a sense of burning injustice. Trophies are rare, and when they don't come, some supporters would prefer to cling to the oddly-comforting feeling that had it not been for that one scandalous decision, things would have been so different.

These moments of injustice are as easy to stomach as the morsels offered up in Bushtucker Trials, but they're far more palatable than the alternative: the cold, clear realisation that your rivals were simply better at football.

Chelsea fans might even take the 'goal' as a slice of luck they deserve. They felt that the goal that denied them a place in the 2005 Champions League final had not crossed the line. Well, these things level themselves out over the course of seven seasons.

ED disagrees with Platini — it is better, of course, to get decisions right. If it weren't, why bother training referees? Why not simply flip a coin for every free kick, offside and penalty? If goal-line technology will improve the number of correct decisions by a percentage point or two, it is worth adopting.

That is not to say, however, that goal-line technology will be some cure-all solution, even for these goal-line incidents.

Just as a million monkeys sat at a million typewriters for a million years will almost surely churn out the complete works of William Shakespeare, so too will refereeing teams sat at TV screens contrive to uphold the wrong decision in the face of all evidence. Cricket's Decision Review System, using the same Hawkeye system as football could apply, has produced numerous correct decisions, but also some inexplicable ones. Football will be no different.

In that sense, though, Platini needn't fear. Goal-line technology will not create a shortage of footballing talking points or even injustices. From 'did the technology work?' to 'shouldn't we extend it to handballs, or penalty incidents?' and beyond — the debates will crop up again, slightly mutated, but just as passionate as ever.

It wouldn't be football otherwise.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The second goal was a disaster wasn't it? It was nowhere near a goal. It was an honest mistake but it was nowhere near over. (The referee) made a big mistake." - Harry Redknapp rages at the decision, but on the plus side, going out of a Cup citing a contentious goal is good practice for the England job.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Wearing the colours of Livorno, Piermario always showed his athletic ability and that he was an exceptional man. Everyone at Livorno expresses the most sincere condolences to his family." - Italian football was called off for the weekend after the death of Piermario Morosini following an on-field cardiac arrest during the Serie B game between Pescara and Livorno.

His club Livorno led the tributes to the former Italy U-21 international, who died at just 25.

COMING UP: There's more Premier League action as Arsenal host Wigan at 20:00, while we review the weekend's top flight action with our exclusive Premier League videos, and prepare for the midweek Champions League semi-final showdowns.

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