The Introduction of Technology in soccer will Change the image of the game.
Some years ago, no one would think of ever having to play or watch something at their own time. Soccer used to be watched live and wrong decisions made by referees were the talk of the day. Today, officials are now assisted with headsets to communicate with their assistants making decision making a little easier. However, after different modifications to soccer have been made, another suggestion that has been thought of for quite a long time is still being debated, although it may now be a reality soon. The football governing body, FIFA, and many football fanatics are currently focusing on whether the ideas of using video replays and goal line technology (putting chips in balls to detect whether a ball has crossed the goal line or not) should be considered. Replays do help us to solve our own arguments and satisfy our urge when watching a movie, trying to see how a goal was scored or for any other purpose but it can’t just be used anywhere to solve problems and especially in live soccer. Goal line technology, on the other hand, detects if the ball has crossed the goal line or not, and sends a signal to the referee to make a decision. When the idea was first brought up, everyone was asking questions about how and when it would be done and the impacts it would bring. Most concerned soccer fans are still worried about how this technology will change the game and the feel that the game has been changed enough and any more modifications or alterations would make it loose it’s meaning and change its history.
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The purpose of this essay is to point out how technology will affect the game and what major differences it will bring. Although technology is still of major use in fields like medicine and other sports, the introduction of video replays and goal line technology in soccer will not only re-write its history but also change the face of the beautiful game.
Expensive to maintain
First of all, the introduction of any kind of technology in any field will definitely have to cost money and time. The governing body should put into consideration that hiring these software engineers will cost a lot of money since not only one will develop the software. Software development will need time to be developed and finally released. This implies that this software has to be tested and definitely money will have to be spent.
On top of that, the chips have to be maintained for maximum and effective performance. FIFA will have to also spend money to hire professionals to train the officials on how to use the software, the dos and don’ts and how to handle problems which may arise.
But even if this technology is introduced, the costs to implement it will be limited to lower division leagues and third world countries. In an online article on bbc.co.uk, the writer also points out the issue of limitations of this technology “Some also worry that such developments would not be available to the lower leagues, further widening the gap between the rich big clubs and the cash-strapped minnows.” So instead of FIFA wasting money in developing and testing the software, the money can be used to develop soccer in upcoming and developing countries.
Negative effects to game play
Secondly, several interruptions to the game to resolve issues will affect the tempo of the game. The speed at which soccer is played is so fast that even the time taken to organize a free kick or a penalty would be too much; what if we need about 5 minutes to make a decision? Of course players, managers and the fans will not enjoy the game the same way as before. An average player will be active in continuous play and any stoppages will affect their fitness and stamina. When muscles that have been active relax, it would be hard for them to be as active as before.
These breaks not only affect the players but also affect the managers and their approach to the game. They will have to change the tactics to fit the players’ ability and also the situation in the game. The process of video review could take a long time. Soccer should not have long stoppages which would ruin the flow of a match and allow for unusually long periods of rest for a team, which can affect tactics. (USSF Ref, 2006) Nathan Saunders writes about the comments made by the former England manger, Sven Goran Eriksson on his blog at MySA. Eriksson suggested a timeout per half, which Saunders describes as “awful”. “Frankly, I think this is just an awful suggestion. Sven wants to give players better rest and have better opportunities to make substitutions. In my book, stamina and fitness are two characteristics that make soccer one of the most athletic of sports. I just don’t think these guys need a break”. “It might also be that I object to the word “timeout.” If I wanted to see commercials, I’d watch an NBA or NFL game.”
Former English referee Graham Barber also stresses the same point in an interview with Alan Biggs on Guardian unlimited, “English football is an exciting product because of the way the game is played. It is the fastest and most physical football in the world. That is why people love to watch it. What effect would it have on the product if we introduced stoppages for video playbacks? I think the game would become a turn-off.” Like Saunders and Graham express their fury and dissatisfaction, I don’t think many soccer fans and players would want these kinds of interruptions to the game.
Waste of time
In addition to the above is waste of time. This is one of the issues soccer doesn’t want to have. We have all watched matches when players fake injuries, or conflicts on pitch prompt referees to add too much injury time. If fans raise concern when a referee adds 5 or 6 minutes to a match, what will happen if it is more than 10 minutes? As I have already pointed out, soccer is a game of pace and is more interesting without any interruptions or too much time. Roddy Forsyth gives an example of an international game that was stopped for more than 13 minutes as a replay was being analyzed. The game was at a really good pace and all the players were in full form. Football, played at greater pace and a more sustained momentum than rugby, could not afford such delays. (Roddy, 2007)
Graham Barber argues there is no way this technology will not consume time. He questions on how the game will be stopped. As he continues, he points out that there is no way an official can analyze a replay for less than 30 seconds, because he has to fully observe what happened. This implies that a lot of time will still be wasted on a decision that may not even be correct because of pressure to restart the game.
Furthermore, FIFA should take note that all developed software comes with problems and therefore will need to be improved at a point in time. Some questions also have to be asked on how the goal line technology will be used. What will happen if the referee doesn’t get a signal? Well the answer is he will have to consult other officials to find out what has gone wrong, and therefore that will mean another stoppage in the game. This will also mean that for the game to continue, the software has to be repaired since it would be part of the game.
Another major point to be considered is making wrong decisions. What if the referee is pressured not to waste time? He will have to make abrupt decisions, if the software failed to relay the correct information. This will actually bring in more conflicts to the game. Also with the advancement of technology, everything has been made easy. We don’t have to go all the way to the bank for cash withdrawal, now that there are ATM machines everywhere. So considering that example, what will the referee do with this technology at his hands? Chances are that he will relax. No one would want to wash dishes when there is dish washer, and neither will the referee want to strain his muscles when there is a video official or a chip in the ball to help out. Therefore, this will affect his decisions and the way he handles the game. According to “USSF Ref”, a big soccer.com member, “It could lead the referee to become reliant on the tape, so he could be more apprehensive to trust his judgment and call something, because the tape could help him get it right later”. So unlike a normal referee who will make efforts to keep the ball in his sight, a video assisted official will see no need to do so.
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Furthermore, software can’t be that accurate too. It may make correct or wrong calls at any time. FIFA was trying to use the goal line technology at the last world cup, but several tests showed that the “ready” software was still lacking. John Borland quotes George Cumming, a former Head of Refereeing at FIFA in his article “World Cup soccer loves to hate high tech” on C-Net news.com, “We’ve tried. The technology has developed, but I think it hasn’t solved this problem”.
On the other hand, referees will not do their job in the same way and with the same mentality as before. They will loose their authority and therefore their decisions will be taken lightly. Many deem video playback systems, which must be monitored by someone off-field, an unacceptable infringement on the referee’s traditionally complete control over the game’s play. A purist camp even points to referees’ human frailty as an integral part of the game. (John, 2006)
Graham Barber does not also see the use of replays to officials or the game in any way, “You can watch an incident from six different angles and still not decide whether it was hand-to-ball or ball-to-hand. By calling for video technology, what people are doing is encouraging referees to transfer their decisions – based on opinion – to somebody sitting in front of a television set. He then gives his opinion, and it might easily be one that plenty of other people think is wrong.” He goes on saying, “Technology is not infallible. A fifth, “video” official could get a decision right and still find people saying he was wrong. The game is all about opinion – that is the lifeblood of football and why it is talked about in the bars. I just think decisions are best left to the opinion of the man at the centre of things.”
A big number of people are still supporting the idea of introducing this technology, and not seeing the downside to it. Their main argument of resolving conflicts is what every one will try to make or give on this point. However as I have already stated, the arguments may be solved but how long will it take for them to come to a decision? When Neil Lennon was sent off in injury time in the Celtic v Falkirk match last weekend, the row took so long to resolve that the game did not finish until after 5pm. Sorry, John, but some of us see little enough of our families because of live football, without having to sit through the same action over and over (Roddy, 2006).
Other than waste of time, accuracy is another issue to be raised. Will the decision made really be correct? Most people will argue that these replays will show correct results and should therefore be relied on. In the article “Video replays can’t fix footballs ills” Roddy Forsyth of the Daily Telegraph cites an example of an incident where a player was sent off for allegedly swinging his hand at his opponent. Two cameras failed to help judge the incident, and the third showed the player swung his hand involuntarily. If even the smartest of technologies may not be able to capture certain angles in play, I don’t think we can really rely on these replays to give us the correct decisions.
Others still argue that we need fairness in the game, which I agree to. It is indeed important for any game to be fair, and every team will want to win games fair and square. But if you went around most pubs, clubs or even any soccer argument anywhere, you will realize that most of the arguments are based on a certain decision made in a certain match. These arguments are not just arguments, but they also add to the fun of the game. So what will happen if everything is got correct? We will have to see less of our “soccer friends”, there will be no talking points in conversations and now the old passion of the game will be long gone. But who would want all that? In one comment to the article “Time for technology?” on bbc.co.uk, the writer states, “The thing that makes football the number one sport is partly the controversy over decisions – was it on or not? etc – and the banter this creates between fans of different clubs. To introduce technology will to a point diminish this and the game and will also prevent one of my favorite pastimes (moaning how the ref cost us the last game).”
In conclusion, with all these arguments put into consideration, I do not think the introduction of any kind of technology will help us in anyway whatsoever. It will not be of any help to soccer and the idea of introducing it should be scrapped. Even if technology is still of major use in fields like medicine and other sports, the introduction of video replays and goal line technology in soccer will not only re write its history but also change the face of the beautiful game.
- Roddy .F. (2007). Video replays can’t fix footballs ills. The Daily Telegraph, 7th January, 2007.Retrived on 21st January 2007 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2006/12/29/sfnrod29.xml
- John. B. (2006). World Cup soccer loves to hate high tech. [Online]. Retrieved on 24th January, 2007 from http://news.com.com/World+Cup+soccer+loves+to+hate+high+tech/2100-1008_3-6084911.html
- BigSoccer Member “USSF Ref” (2006) Video Replay and Goal Line Technology – Good for soccer. [Online]. Retrieved on 26th January, 2007 from http://bigsoccer.com/forum/showthread.php?s=2ebf767ab80b5d823cce73b4db32cc1c&t=287641
- Alan. B. (2006). The big debate: does football need video evidence to stamp out foul play? [Online]. The Guardian Unlimited, October 3, 2006. Retrieved on 21st January,2007 from http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/sport/2006/10/03/does_football_need_video_evide.html
- Nathan. S. (2006). Sven’s suggestions. [Online]. Retrieved on 28th January, 2007 from http://blogs.mysanantonio.com/weblogs/soccer/archives/2006/03/svens_suggestions_1.html
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