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May 12, 2011 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

The 7th Inning Stretch – Technology. Who needs it?

The inclusion of technology in sport is a much disputed topic. Football avoids it, cricket is trying it, and rugby and tennis have seemed to embrace it. The dispute is whether or not technology enhances said sports or if it does not.

The reason this is so pertinent is due to a number of football calls in the past year that would have benefited from technology being incorporated into games. Specifically in regards to football, I am talking about goal line technology so that accurate calls can be made on whether or not the ball has passed the goal line and in turn if a goal has been scored or not.

Recently the English Premier League would have benefited from such technology when Chelsea mid-fielder Frank Lampard fired a shot towards Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes who fumbled it towards the goal but managed to stop it in time, yet the goal was still given. This was a vital goal in the title and Champions League spots race and the wrong decision was made. This is not the referees’ fault though and they were not blamed by anyone because it was a marginal call, but with technology the right decision could have been made. The conservative and out of touch FIFA however have not been very willing to move their sport into the 21st Century and allow technology into the game of football. Just another negative blight on Sepp Blatter’s resume.

The reason this feudalism is so confusing is because so many sports have incorporated technology without detriment to the functioning of the sport for players or spectators. Tennis has embraced Hawk Eye and under their system players get a limited number of challenges to line calls every set. These challenges are quickly placed on the big screen and the technology shows where the ball landed clearing up any differences in opinion between umpires and players. This technology is on all the major tennis tours and has been hugely successful in making sure that the right decisions are made when it comes to line calls. It does not intrude on the sport and players and umpires alike enjoy the accuracy it brings with it.

Cricket has included technology much more slowly than tennis and is still trying to work out the finer points of how and when it is used, but they have at least shown openness to the idea. Of course there are people against it, usually purists who believe umpire mistakes are just part of the game, but the general consensus is that technology should be used to some extent. Most of the arguments are around how much technology will be available and for what purposes. Cricket has also not refined their system for challenging decisions and reducing review times as well as tennis have. But they are getting there. Once the technology is made available cheaply and the system has been refined, we will definitely see technology helping the umpires in international cricket on a continuous basis.

So why do football not go the way of these two sports? It seems outrageous to think that football has technology at its disposal that it is simply choosing not to use. Yes, people have created technology already which is accurate and unobtrusive for the very purpose of goal line decisions, but FIFA choose not to endorse it and include it in football. Slightly strange that the most popular sport in the world is so far behind the times and unwilling to accept change. They should be leading sport in these areas, rather than dragging behind. But I guess you can’t expect too much from a sport where people dive down in agony when no one has touched them and they get the ball back. Football can be so upside-down sometimes. Just fingers crossed that no such decisions will have to be made in the upcoming Champions League Final. We wouldn’t want such a day tarnished like that. But that’s the risk they run.


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