Is Technology In Sport A Step Too Far?

Australia’s passion for sport is one of the things that define us as a nation. Few countries bat above its weight in the Olympics, Soccer World Cup and Rugby World Cup – in fact any major world sport has had an Aussie champion at some stage – golf, tennis, F1, boxing – you get the picture. But what we really love above the passion of winning is a fair go. There is nothing worse than somebody’s dream being put to the sword due to a poor call by a referee or umpire, without any recourse.

Both Rugby League and Rugby Union have embraced video referee technology, as have tennis and cricket. There are critics of such technology – it wastes too much time, sometimes it’s inconclusive, video refs end up being the centre of attention etc etc etc.

However, with the latest howlers in the FIFA World Cup – Frank Lampard’s no goal in the Germany vs England match and the Carlos Tevez offside in the Argentina vs Mexico match – there is a huge call for football to finally embrace technology to get things right.

So what are the barriers? Well, a few, according to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Those who know their football history will remember the famous Geoff Hurst goal for England in the 1966 World Cup final against Germany, which was scored under similar circumstances to the Lampard goal. In that instance, the USSR linesman let the goal stand. The controversy it caused, and the reaction from German fans, bordered on murderous. So, you think 44 years later, we would be in a situation whereby nothing like that would happen again. Not so as the two aforementioned games will attest.

So would the technology help? Absolutely. If you look at the replays of a certain incident, technology has moved to such an extent that super slow-motion is possible with cameras, which was unheard of even 10 years ago, let alone 45 years ago. You can see every little bit of contact, foul, deliberate hand balls, offsides and balls crossing the line. Cameras are everywhere – in the stand, on the ground, directly behind the goal and even in the goal. About the only places the cameras aren’t, are on the ref or the ball. The resolution of these cameras in unsurpassed – no grainy footage, or juddering frames – you can get a clear, concise picture of what is happening in the field of play.

FIFA head Sepp Blatter will have us believe that mistakes are all part of the game – refereeing mistakes are what makes the game human and adds to the drama, he argues . However, what about the players, coaching staff and fans? What about all those hours of training put in, only to be undone in a few seconds by a poor decision by the referee or one of the assistants? These are the questions Blatter and his almost dismissive cronies have to take into consideration. Has technology really taken away from the spectacle of rugby league, tennis or cricket? Not really. Has it slowed the game down? Sure, but it’s negligible. In fact, you could argue that sometimes it adds to the excitement as you see a replay, and you come to your own decision hoping the video ref will see it that way, too.

And what about the vilification of the officials after the fact? Apparently Uruguayan ref, Jorge Larrionda, who was in charge of the Germany/England game was still under police escort for some time after the final whistle.

Blatter has to realise that the game doesn’t belong to him and his gin-swigging pals in Zurich, but the people. Most don’t care what he thinks, they just want him to get it right. More importantly, with the advent of 3D television and no doubt even more technological advances in the future, the situation is not going to get any better for officials.

With the beautiful game also being the most popular pastime on the planet, maybe it’s time for the powers that be to come into the 21st century – after all it’s about the fans and fairness.