Quietly, without ceremony, it has slipped into history. The chance to change the rules of football has gone for another year.
The annual meeting of the International Football Association Board, custodian of the Laws of the Game, came and went recently in Zurich. It will, perhaps, be remembered for what it did not do rather than what it did.
The IFAB meets once a year, usually in February or March, to consider proposals to amend the Laws. Altering the rules of football is a complex process but essentially it comes down to eight people.
Four represent FIFA on behalf of the global confederations and each has a vote. Tradition dictates one each from the national associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also has a vote. For a proposal to succeed, it must attract at least 75 per cent of the eight votes.
Unsurprisingly, calls for the introduction of video technology to assist with goal-line decisions did not make the cut. Any change to the laws is put into practice on July 1st of the same year. In World Cup years, changes are therefore rare since they would actually take effect during the World Cup itself.
In other words, there was never a cat in hell's chance of significant changes being made in 2010.
For all FIFA's apologies to the Irish for you-know-who's handball and pledges to examine the merits of video replays, the IFAB was not going to pass any resolution this year. If FIFA boss Sepp Blatter has his way it will never fly.
He has a point. A truly valid point and it has nothing to do with money. Blatter claims the technology is "too costly" to implement yet FIFA makes millions from its worldwide tournaments. Reinvesting some of the profits into goal-line technology, at the senior professional level, would not be a hardship.
Man versus machine is not the issue. A human referee, who we will assume is honest and impartial, can only give what he sees (or not if his view on an incident is obscured). For that reason he has two assistant referees, not only to run the line, but also to offer advice if sought.
A machine can tell you what the refereeing team may not. With a combination of cameras and computers, the technology exists to offer an accurate verdict on whether or not the whole of the ball has crossed the goal-line. Tennis and cricket fans know all about Hawk-Eye so why not soccer?
Blatter, and therefore FIFA's stance, other than the cost, is the one many of us share. How do you stop the game to review the video? Hawk-Eye works for tennis because it is only used to challenge a rally-ending line call. Football is not a stop-start game - there are no natural breaks when the ball is in play.
Breaking up flow of the game
In his latest Presidential article on the FIFA website Blatter voices his concerns: "If play were to be stopped to take a decision, it would break up the rhythm of the game and possibly deny a team the opportunity to score a goal."
Perfectly valid point. Except Blatter knows otherwise. How? Because Hawk-Eye Innovations told him so last year. The English-based company wrote an open letter to the FIFA President in September 2009 assuring him its technology would not disrupt the flow of the game.
Hawk-Eye claims its system will alert the referee, via his ear-piece, within half a second of the ball having crossed the line and argues there is no need at all to halt the game. The letter also states the technology was demonstrated to the IFAB's technical committee and proved 100 per cent accurate in tests.
So what is really going on? FIFA has the information and the IFAB has seen the technology at work so why, at its annual meeting, did the Board conclude that "goal-line technology would not be pursued"?
It is, I believe, a simple case of picking your battles. The very fact Hawk-Eye published a letter openly critical of Blatter, accusing him of several inaccuracies about its product, did not go down well in FIFA's corridors of power. The President is not used to being addressed in such a manner.
Hawk-Eye concludes its letter with a clear warning. It hopes once Blatter has read and understood the contents "that no further action is required to protect our name or set the record straight". I think we can all see the message Hawk-Eye managing director Dr. Paul Hawkins was attempting to convey.
Hawkins was not the only one upset by FIFA's negativity. The English Premier League had part funded Hawk-Eye's goal-line technology development but it appears the money has been wasted by the International Board's outright rejection of the concept.
Of course none of this would have done anything to prevent Thierry Henry's unpunished indiscretion against the Irish. Two extra officials, one at the side of each goal as piloted in the Europa League, would surely have spotted the Frenchman's unsportsmanlike conduct.
Williams Gallas' subsequent header, which definitely crossed the goal-line, would have long been forgotten. Referee Martin Hansson would have instantly disallowed the effort and Henry would have been show a yellow card.
But as Mr. Blatter points out "Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of our sport." Absolutely, Mr. President - except when it's just plain wrong.
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