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Thursday 19 November 2009

We have the technology....

Whilst i did not see the football match between France & the Republic Of Ireland last night, i certainly have seen the aftermath. I did follow the final part of the match via the BBC news website. but, that's another story altogether.
(By the way. For those of you who may be reading this in the USA. In this blog post Football, means Soccer. I hope that's made that clear?)

For me, this whole story is about far more than just a football match. Albeit a very important football match.

For the benefit of those who have no idea what i'm talking about. The match between France & the Republic Of Ireland decided which of those two teams went through to the World Cup Finals in South Africa in 2010. So, there was a lot at stake.

Near the end of the game, the French player Thierry Henry blatantly handled the ball & then passed it to a team mate. who promptly scored the winning goal. Sending the Irish home empty handed (ouch!) & the French to the World Cup Finals.
Although the Irish players complained at the time. The referee & his assistants didn't see the incident & therefore allowed the "goal" to stand. In my opinion, there is no blame attached to them. They made a decision based on what they saw.

There is no real debate that the goal should have been disallowed. Even Thierry Henry admits that he handled the ball & by all accounts, the French media have been a little embarrassed by it all.

But, this whole sorry situation makes me question why it is allowed to happen in the first place? After all, we are talking about a important match that was potentially worth a lot of money to the victor.
The World Cup is the most prestigious football tournament around & is only held every four years. For your country to take part in the finals is a big achievement & apart from the monetary value, it is also a big boost to the mood of the country itself.
So, to miss out is a very big deal. Especially if you miss out in such controversial circumstances.

In common with all big sorting events these days, this game was being filmed & televised.
I should imagine that in the immediate aftermath of that decisive "goal", the footage was being replayed in living rooms around the world. From several different angles & in slow motion too i should imagine. And probably all done before the match even restarted.

Now, if this footage is readily available, why isn't it being used to correct an obvious injustice?
Well, this is mainly due to an apparent unwillingness of the football authorities to embrace this technology & their reluctance to use video evidence.
For me, at least, this is totally unforgivable. If this incident does not make the relevant footballing authorites reconsider their oppostion to the use of video technology, then they should not be surprised if:
a) Football fans vote with their feet & wallets & stop attending matches, or stop paying extra to watch them on TV. Thereby denying the game & the authorities invaluable income. or,
b) Cheating becomes ever more widespread & blatant amongst players. After all, if there is a chance of not getting caught, why not try it on? This situation will then probably lead to a).

I'm sure that this is not what anyone really wants, myself included. It is, after all, supposed to be "the beautiful game".
But, it is increasingly becoming more than just a game. Football is now a multi-million pound/euro/dollar industry. Surely this is even more reason to make sure that things are done properly & above board?

Other sports have embraced technology & use it to great advamtage. So, why not football?
One of the often quoted reasons for not using video replays, is the supposed notion that they would break up the natural flow of the game. This is a valid argument, up to a point.

As i mentioned earlier, the incident last night & many others like it, would not require the game to be stopped. Every match has enough natural breaks to enable a sensible compromise to be reached.
Where there is a will, there is a way. If the footballing authorities really want this to happen, it will. So, no more excuses please.

Now is the time for UEFA & FIFA to stand up & be counted & to help protect the beautiful game.
If they don't, they should not be surprised if more people, like myself, get ever more disillusioned with the direction that the game of football is taking & vote with our feet & wallets.

We have the technology. So, let's use it & stop this kind of injustice ever happening again.

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