It is on the way. It is no longer a question of if but when. That merely leads to another question, as yet unanswered, and potentially unanswerable: where do you draw the line with video technology?
It is about to become part of professional soccer. The rigorous testing procedures are well underway and a high ranking Football Association executive recently talked optimistically of how it could be in place in England as early as next season.
I use the word 'early' advisedly. In fact it is already years too late. Soccer has continually dragged its feet over the issue and FIFA's top brass declared the whole wretched experiment dead only months before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Frank Lampard's 'goal' changed all that.
As the dust settled in Bloemfontein, one thing became crystal clear. Despite soccer's reluctance to follow the lead of many other pro sports and employ video technology, the counter argument was now overwhelming. The outcome of World Cups, and other senior competitions, could no longer be left to guesswork by well meaning but error prone humans.
FIFA, and thereby the rest of the football world, has been forced to revive something it thought it had killed for good. It is now working to a tight deadline. The next World Cup is more than two and a half years away, but its 'test event' - the Confederations Cup - is scheduled for the summer of 2013.Clock is ticking
Essentially, FIFA has a little over 18 months to test, buy, install, embrace and promote soccer's great leap forward.
Let's be clear about what we're getting into. This is about goal-line technology. That's all. By the time Brazil 2014 rolls around, the debate about whether the whole of the ball crossed the line will be redundant. Strategically positioned cameras will, if necessary, give a definitively accurate answer in the blink of an eye. It is either a goal or it isn't. Case closed.
This, unfortunately, leaves a number of other cases unsolved. The impending technology will answer the most basic and important question in the game without fear or favour. Goal or no goal? What it will not do raises more questions than it answers.
By and large goals don't drop out of the sky. Before execution, they require creation. Without the build up there is no end product. It is this area which opens a whole different can of worms regarding the use of technology, not to mention the very culture of the game.
Only last weekend for example, a fourth official equipped with the benefit of instant replay, could have changed the course of history. Rio Ferdinand's last ditch tackle was originally seen as clean and a corner awarded. The referee's decision was subsequently questioned by his assistant who persuaded him a foul had been committed and a penalty should ensue.
On the advice of his assistant the referee changed his mind and awarded a penalty. The spot kick was duly converted and the game finished in a 1-1 draw. There's no way of telling how the game would have turned out had the referee stuck by his original decision; no guarantee Manchester United would have held on to win.
The TV replay proved him right. Millions of us saw what the referee could not. Had he been able to get a second opinion, as used by rugby's Television Match Official (TMO) the game would inevitably have taken a different course. He would have been vindicated and, with indisputable evidence, the fans would have seen fair play prevail. Goal-line technology would have been irrelevant.
Blunders force FIFA's hand
On the same day that Frank Lampard did not score for England at the World Cup, Argentina did. But they shouldn't have. Carlos Tevez' header against Mexico was clearly offside but the assistant failed to flag and the referee allowed Argentina to take a lead they never looked like surrendering. Two major officiating blunders on the same day, when the whole world was watching, forced FIFA's hand. But the offside rule, and its administration, will not change with the coming electronic upgrade.
Most accept the old cliche. For generations coaches, players and supporters have shrugged their shoulders and moved on in the knowledge that these things "even themselves out over the course of a season." Really? In all the years I have followed the game I have yet to see any kind of conclusive study which supports the theory.
So where should the clear benefit of instant video replay start and stop? Goal-line technology is only one problem solved, and a relatively rare one at that. Surely there are far more frequent moments of controversy which an 'eye-in-the-sky' could resolve in an instant to everyone's satisfaction.
We could live in a soccer utopia. The 'All Seeing Eye' could ensure nobody scored an offside goal ever again and no attacker could ever con the official or his assistant into awarding an unjust penalty. It could even weed out the defensive culprits who routinely grab and push their opponents at set pieces while, at the same time, identifying the forwards backing in and leading with their arms causing dangerous play.
We are only just getting started with the shopping list. This is precisely why goal-line technology alone will do fine - at least for the time being. It is long overdue but finally and correctly it is a small step in the right direction.
Referees are employed to apply the Laws of the Game. More importantly they are there to be effective man-managers, occasional diplomats and sometimes disciplinarians in a highly competitive multimillion dollar industry.
Last time I checked, video technology was lacking some essential skills.
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