Football and technology. When will they learn…

Being an avid 5Live listener, I have heard countless pub pundits call in and give their view on the subject of technology in football – usually after their teams have been robbed of three points.

Football has had a serious problem with change in the last few decades. This has been brought into sharp reality over recent years with the row over ‘goal line technology’. Now, I am totally behind the idea of technology in sport, and there are countless instances where it would be beneficial for football. But I don’t think they will adopt it any time soon. Let me explain.

Added time! Think about that term for a minute, ‘Added time’. There is no single reason why, in this day and age, added time exists, aside from ‘it’s just always been like that’.  No other sport in the world has kept it, and all it does is open another needless area for error. Why can games not be timed like every other relevant sport? One universal clock, which is stopped when play breaks down sufficiently (a card, an injury), then started again when play resumes. Then, when the clock strikes 90 minutes, shock / horror, the game is over!

The most worrying part is added time could be ousted now, today, before the next game. No new technology, no money, just a new way of timing a game. I would be surprised if it’s even been discussed in the corridors of power at FIFA. Why? Because football it too slow to consider innovation and doesn’t think it ‘needs’ to change.

I think rugby is a sport that uses technology really well – taking advantage of the fantastic TV coverage to make sure important decisions are correct. People thought this would slow the game down and detract from the excitement. However, if you have ever been to Twickers for a game and a try is referred to the video ref, the tension actually increases as the whole crowd get to see the events unfold from every angle on the big screen. Fans wait with bated breath for the decision, until the truth is revealed and one set of fans can celebrate at last. Similarly in cricket, (OK, so I think it’s a little over-used in cricket, but we’ll ignore that for now). The sight and sound of the crowd egging on the big screen to display ‘OUT’ is electrifying.

Hockey uses technology in an interesting and innovative way. Each team is allowed one referral per half if they think an important decision was wrong. If they challenge a ruling, and the TV shows it to have been a wrong call, the challenging team keep their one referral. If, however, the umpire was right, the team loses its ability to challenge for the rest of the half. This has a remarkable effect on the game. Instead of surrounding the umpires in protest after a big decision, the umpires simply say ‘if you’re so sure I’m wrong, refer it’. It is astonishing how many times the captain will stop arguing, think about the incident, and accept it.

In all of these examples technology has not only made the game fairer and more correct in the eyes of the law, but it has given players more belief that games will be policed properly and therefore just to get on with playing the best they can. It means that players can no longer blame a loss on poor officials, but must now take more responsibility for their own performance. Surely that’s where we want sport to be.

I liken football to my dear old Nan. She’s 91. She has no need for technology. Never has, never will. She remains blissfully ignorant about the internet, and change for her will just take too much effort, simply because she would have to start from the beginning. However, what if she had adopted computers and accepted them as they came out, like most people in younger generations. Imagine the benefits she could be reaping now such as having groceries delivered to her door without having to leave the house.

My point is that football has allowed itself, through inertia, to get left behind when it comes to technology. As a result it’s going to have take a giant leap to catch up with every other sport. Right now, they simply won’t take the jump, just like my Nan.

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