Issue Video technology deserves a sensible debate

As told by Jason Mckeown

Despite two entertaining second round games it has not been a good day for the World Cup. Frank Lampard’s shot for England which clearly crossed the line – wrongly not awarded a goal – and Carlos Tevez’s offside opener for Argentina against Mexico – which the assistant referee realised he’d got wrong after TV replays in the stadium, but which the referee could not reverse – have cranked up the volume on calls for video technology.

Every pundit, commentator and rent-a-quote manager has joined in with condemning FIFA and Sepp Blatter for not bringing in video technology. The spectre of Mexico players gathering to watch big screen replays before hounding the assistant referee, leaving the officials having to push through a call they now knew they had wrong, added to the farcical nature. TV replays showed in seconds the decisions were wrong, was the argument for both games, so why ignore the benefits? Sadly the standard of this debate has the hallmarks of much which is wrong with the modern game.

For one thing there seems to be no attempt to understand why the technology isn’t being used. Most pundits incorrectly believe the argument against is simply it will slow down the game, but it’s more a case of subjectivity and expense. Not every decision is as clear cut as Lampard’s ‘goal’ – hours of pundits arguing after games shows that – and the same rules should apply for every football match.

It’s all very well using video technology when there are 60+ cameras covering a match, as every World Cup match and the majority of top flight games is subject too. But football is more than just the Premier League and international tournaments. And during a period where the beautiful game has moved further and further away from ordinary people – witness the thousands of empty seats for more World Cup matches in Africa – it’s one saving grace we all still play the same game.

For while TV could quickly prove Lampard had scored and that Tevez was offside, it couldn’t prove the same in a match at Valley Parade and it couldn’t prove the same for the Dog and Duck on a Sunday morning. How can the pyramid football system be fair if at one level clubs get the benefit of extra help and other clubs do not? England are out the World Cup and it might be due to the lack of technology – though some woeful tactics and poor defending can’t be overlooked – but other teams have lost out of promotion or suffered relegation on similar occurrences.

At Valley Parade there are typically two cameras capturing the game from the Midland Road stand. Never mind the cost of linking up a monitor with a feed to the referee, for him to be able to make a proper call Valley Parade would need to have cameras around the ground covering all angles. As would every other stadium in England and around the world, and while the Dog and Duck can be ruled out on the grounds they are an amateur side, such large parts of professional football cannot.

Not that Alan Green or Alan Hansen or Harry Redknapp would bother to consider this. Modern football is all about the top players, the top clubs, the top competitions. But if technology was brought in just for the haves, there’s more reason for the have nots to feel further alienated.

Of course it’s frustrating Lampard’s goal hasn’t stood. It’s equally wrong when poor refereeing decisions have cost Bradford City. But football needs to find solutions that will universally work rather than thinking only of the few.

Which is where the players come in, not that anyone has considered this. Germany’s keeper Manuel Neur must have known Lampard’s shot crossed the line, why didn’t he hold his hands up? More realistically Argentina’s players knew their opener shouldn’t have counted and that the officals were compromised. Why couldn’t they allow Mexico to run through and score straight from kick off, saying we want to beat you fair and square so let’s go back level?

Winning in football is all that matters. But if the video debate is all about taking human error out of the equation, that other less than desirable human trait – cheating – shouldn’t be allowed to go unpunished.