Soccer scores a hi-tech goal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am


The saying that if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it is generally good reason to think twice before doing so. But if there is a popular perception that something needs fixing it probably does. A case in point is the world game. There is no argument that that is what soccer is, with grass-roots participation and global television audiences. Its world governing body, Fifa, is based in Switzerland, just like important United Nations agencies, only it has even more member nations than the UN. The game goes from strength to strength. The people who run it wield international power and patronage they could otherwise only dream of. Why try to innovate, or even keep up with popular administrative initiatives by other sports, when you are the market leader? As many an ex-corporate chieftain could have told them, such thinking can easily backfire.

As it turned out, soccer chiefs were acutely embarrassed during the last World Cup, when human error by referees denied England a goal against Germany which would have been awarded by goal-line technology if only they had not spurned it as an affront to the game's traditions. The incident prompted Fifa president Sepp Blatter to reopen a debate on introducing hi-tech aids, which he had previously helped stifle. A sense of urgency was provided by the recent European championships. England was the beneficiary this time of an inexplicable failure by a referee to rule that the ball had crossed the goal line before being hastily cleared by a defender - a repeat of the World Cup blunder. As a result, Fifa's lawmaking panel has finally cleared the way for goal-line technology to be used at the 2014 World Cup. Other football codes, as well as tennis and cricket, have long since embraced hi-tech aids for officials. Public opinion prevailed over tradition. Surprisingly, there remains a rallying point for those who resent technology intruding into soccer - French soccer legend Michel Platini, now European football chief. Fifa's lawmakers also approved his preference for an extra referee on each goal line. Vive la difference!