A rant against goal line technology (and modern football)
Although not an issue focused solely on the Football League, the hot topic is once again the introduction of goal-line technology. It seems inevitable now, but my air is one of resignation rather than anticipation. I’ve written about this before, but perhaps it bears repeating.
Yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur managed to get themselves into such a situation that the ball was millimetres from crossing their goal line. Today, the quote from their striker Emmanuel Adebayor is that they “have to blame the referee”. Spot the real mistakes and woolly thinking here.
Some people seem hell-bent on making football a game of absolutes, categorised in order of importance by the amount of money spent, when it really shouldn’t be. In fact, it says it all that the justification used for promoting the introduction of goal line technology is often the millions of pounds at stake.
This is the most spectacularly missed point of all – we are told it’s terrible that people’s jobs depend on a referee judging whether a ball crosses a line or not when we could use technology to decide. Regardless of goal line technology, the ball will still either cross the line or won’t, people will still lose their jobs (in the Premier League relegation decider scenario) and millions of pounds will still be involved.
If, like Tottenham yesterday, your team gets into a position where the ball may or may not cross the goal line, then that is your team’s fault. If you feel the outcome of an entire match depends on a ball crossing the line or not, you should perhaps pay more attention to the other 89 minutes, 59 seconds plus injury time. This isn’t to focus on Tottenham – it’s the same for any club.
The media have stoked the goal line technology debate into such a frenzy that you are labelled a luddite if you disagree with its introduction, but the media is the main reason we are in this situation in the first place. Moments are given such significance now that we are encouraged to invest the majority of our time after games in castigating officials. It provokes debate. It sells papers. It creates pageviews. It’s also making football worse, to the point where an increasing number of supporters are becoming disillusioned with the game.
The perfect blend of examining football from the outside looking in and the inside looking out, David Conn’s “The Beautiful Game?” taught me that my gut feeling about the sport in the modern era was right while Michael Calvin’s “Family” taught me that you would have to gain access to the inner circle of a football club to truly understand how it works.
And if I could pick just one noteworthy quote out of Rob Smyth and Georgina Turner’s book “Jumpers for Goalposts”, it would be a piece of post-match analysis by then England manager Bobby Robson from the late 1980s – it would have been a “travesty” if his team had won, Robson said, such was Denmark’s superiority. Not exactly the kind of thing you hear every week on Match of the Day. Instead it’s all about how referees have cheated A.N. Club out of three points.
Unfortunately, modern football’s culture of immediacy has deprived us of some great dynasties. There is no telling what some managers could have achieved had they been given more time, yet this insistence that entire careers can turn on one moment, such as a controversial goal line decision, is not helpful.
Even those who know deep down the importance of a long attachment to one club are now living in the moment and cranking up the pressure at the top of the Premier League.
In the space of two hours on one recent evening, one Neville brother laid the blame at two Manchester City players for the concession of goals and the other labelled a Manchester United goal the one that won the title. Yet just moments before Antonio Valencia’s strike that had Phil Neville wrapping the Premier League trophy in bubble wrap and scrawling Old Trafford’s postcode onto a parcel, Radio Five commentator Mike Ingham was referring back to the potential importance of Aleksander Kolarov’s equaliser against Sunderland two days previously. This is what we do – we are desperate to search for moments that we can use to give simple reasons to explain entire seasons. And then we apportion blame.
Given the current appetite for judging football on days, weeks or months rather than a number of seasons, we can’t be far away from As It Stands league tables flashing up on screen during televised games after every goal. Everyone wants to know what the gap is.
Are we not in danger of creating ever decreasing circles? When Roy Hodgson failed to live up to the standard set by Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, he was swiftly replaced. A poor run of form this season has led to Kenny Dalglish struggling to better Hodgson’s miserable tenure, a reason given by some fans for wanting another change in manager. If the next man in the hotseat makes an even worse start again, is he given the boot too? It’s a far cry from the bootroom. One journalist stated recently that Liverpool could finish 13th this season if they are overtaken by a number of teams beneath them, a statement as baseless as saying they could finish bottom next season if they lose all their games.
If I went in this direction and forever judged my team on their performance in the past couple of games, I would quickly drive myself mad. Less than a month ago, four points in two games had supporters declaring joyously that promotion was realistic on the local radio phone-in. Within days, one point from the next two fixtures resulted in one fan declaring the club “a shambles”.
In fact, the four performances in those games would probably have been very similar. Yet one will be held up as an example of what we can do when on form and another will be derided as the worst display in years. There may even have been a dodgy goal line decision in there. In short, it pays not to rely on one team scoring more goals than another to be happy.
This started with goal line technology and ended up wondering whether football makes me happy or not. Football is changing and the inevitability of goal line technology is probably the most tangible example. But it doesn’t seem to be changing for the better as far as I’m concerned.