Early Doors

Can football be trusted with goal-line technology?

Early Doors

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For years the goal-line technology debate has rumbled on at the top level of football and among fans and media alike, reducing what would be one of the most significant changes to the sport ever into a tiresome issue.

Like the interminable saga that is currently engulfing the future of Rangers — and, consequently, Scottish football — the wrangling over whether or not the authorities should allow officials external assistance in ruling if the ball crossed the line or not has become both very important and very boring.

But now, after the International FA Board voted unanimously to approve two systems — Hawk-Eye and GoalRef - for implementation yesterday, that's all about to change.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, once such a staunch denier of the virtues of goal-line technology, has staged a complete U-turn worthy of someone holding his office in charge of a nation, let alone a sporting body.

Blatter revealed the moment he changed his mind was when he witnessed one of the many incidents that were an inevitable consequence of not having the technology in place, just a very high-profile one.

"For me as FIFA president it became evident the moment what happened in South Africa in 2010," Blatter said at FIFA HQ in Zurich. "I have to say 'thank you, Lampard'. I was completely down in South Africa when I saw that it really shocked me, it took me a day to react. It happened again in Ukraine, and Ukraine can still not believe it now."

Football will no longer be stuck in the dark ages while other sports embrace technology. Fans will get immediate closure on any contentious issues, rather than being condemned to wonder what might have been for the rest of their lives. There will be justice for Frank. And for that Ukrainian chap, too. But mainly Frank.

Both Hawk-Eye — the 3D tracking system now widely used in both tennis and cricket — and GoalRef — the clumsily-named system that works by putting a chip inside the ball — will be implemented at the FIFA Club World Cup this December, before being rolled out at next year's Confederations Cup.

There is even excited talk of one of the two systems being installed in the Premier League and the FA Cup as soon as early 2013.

Hawk-Eye is already installed at Wembley following a trial there during England's pre-Euro 2012 friendly against Belgium last month, and FA general secretary Alex Horne said: "It is perfectly possible to introduce it halfway through the season. We have already got Hawk-Eye at Wembley. It needs to be calibrated and [we need to] make sure it's working properly and licensed, so we are nearly there and we could turn Hawk-Eye on quite quickly.

"The FA Cup would be our decision and we could say for the semi-finals and finals of the FA Cup we could turn it on. I don't think that is a very controversial decision.

"We need to go back and talk to the Premier League, everything I hear is that they want it. We might as well agree which one we want to buy and then nail a deal together."

It seems everyone in football is falling over themselves to get involved now that the green light has been given.

Early Doors' main concerns about the use of goal-line technology have never been so much about the debate between tradition and modernisation but, rather, if football can be trusted to get it right.

Tennis and cricket have both enjoyed relatively seamless transitions into their respective Hawk-Eye eras, but these are two sports which can, on the whole, be expected to largely keep their houses in order.

Even so, the fact that challenges on line calls are not available at every event on the ATP or WTA tours, or that DRS is not employed in every Test match, does sit a little uneasily for ED.

As far as the Club World Cup goes, one system will be installed in each of the two stadiums to be used in Japan, at a cost of as much as $200,000 (£130,000) each.  FIFA is footing the bill for those, while the FA is not short of a bob or two, but who would fund a mass roll-out of the technology of whichever company is fortunate enough to get licensed by the Premier League?

If the league itself decides to pay for its installation midway through next season, then three grounds will only have around nine matches in which to use it before the respective teams which occupy them are relegated.

Once they go down, can they still use the technology in the lower leagues even if other grounds do not have it, or would technology worth getting on for £500,000 just sit there idly for an indefinite period? Depending on the clubs who go down at the end of next season, it could be years before they return to the top flight again.

And that is not to mention the argument about introducing such technology midway through a competition, something which Horne says would not be a controversial decision. If one team ends up being relegated or eliminated from the FA Cup because of a goal that shouldn't have been given before Christmas, while another club gets the benefit of a similar incident happening after the technology is installed, we'll see how calm and reasonable people stay then.

Early Doors has never had much time for the wistful concept of human error in refereeing, and all the accompanying talk of how it is what makes football special and gives people something to talk about. If a decision is wrong and it is possible to put it right under reasonable circumstances, then it should be done. However, the sudden rush to embrace and install goal-line technology runs the risk of human errors being made in implementing the very thing that has been developed to eradicate it.

Let's hope we can trust football to do something properly for once.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Liverpool would have provided Gylfi with a wonderful opportunity to perform with a manager that he knows and at a club which is a real footballing institution. But he's decided to go to Tottenham, for whatever reason." — Brendan Rodgers lets people come to their own conclusions as to why Gylfi Sigurdsson chose to join Tottenham instead of Liverpool.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I saw a very good Kallstrom at Euro 2012 and I have not seen the same when with us last season. He could have been transferred last winter, we waited. Bastos? In two years, it's the World Cup in Brazil, he will be much better, believe me." — Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas lays into some of his star players in a newspaper interview, prompting Bastos to announce he would "prefer to leave rather than make things worse".

COMING UP: Eurobot is firing up again this morning to spoon-feed you puny humans (its own words) the latest transfer news throughout the day.

Away from football, there is live coverage of the two men's semi-finals at Wimbledon — Djokovic v Federer followed by Murray v Tsonga — as well as the first free practice sessions ahead of the British Grand Prix and stage six of the Tour de France.

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