UCFB – In Focus: Football must be careful of overusing technology
Dr. Brian Barwick, RFL chairman and member of UCFB’s Employability & Enhancement Panel
For many years I was an advocate of goal-line technology and it was a battle that was difficult to win. I wanted to see it in the game because it deals with actualities – the ball is either over the line or it isn’t. There’s nothing subjective about it. It’s fact.
I used to go to a lot of FIFA congresses and I’d be called the television man because I was forever trying to sell it as an idea. People would ask me: ‘How long will it take for the technology to work and then how do you restart the game?’ I made the point then that it was absolutely instant.
It was a tough fight and I said at the time that one day there would be major incident in a big game that would embarrass FIFA, and of course it was Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ for England against Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
Now goal-line technology works perfectly well. I was at Turf Moor in February when Lincoln City scored that famous goal against Burnley in the FA Cup. It makes you wonder though, because the ball was in and out of the goal in a flash, whether without technology the goal would have stood and Lincoln’s wonderful win would have happened?
Anything that helps officials do their job correctly has got to be a good thing. However, the danger is that the game has a beautiful fluency about it and you don’t want to be continually breaking it up to review decisions. I am a fan of technology to get things right, but I’m not a fan of overusing it. It’s a fine balance between letting the game flow and helping officials. Look how other sports, like tennis and rugby, have embraced technology – it’s referred to when the game has stopped. Goal line technology has worked because of that and the natural break in play.
The recent use of VARs (Video Assistant Referees) in the prestige friendly between France and Spain was further proof of the value of technology to help clear up critical decisions.
However, the reality of football is that it’s an imperfect sport. A midfielder can misplace a pass, a striker can miss an open goal, a defender can make a rash tackle and a referee can miss a decision. Part of the game’s beauty is its imperfections.