Time For A Fans’ Campaign For Video Replay?

No significant Arsenal news around at the moment. Those players not on World Cup duty will be reporting back to training next week with the first friendly at Barnet rapidly approaching. I thought I’d look at the issue of goal-line technology and video replay again today. I also ask whether it’s a matter that fans should be campaigning on.
I’ve always been sceptical about the use of video replays in football. In other games which use it play has stopped naturally. That’s often not the case in football. Take a goal-line incident, a penalty appeal or offside. The correct decision is often “play on”. Once the game has been stopped that bell can’t be un-rung.
That said the use of technology to decide if the ball was over the line for a goal, fresh in the minds of every England fan at the moment following the debacle in Bloomfontein last Sunday, seems inarguable to me. The technology needs to be trialled to ensure it’s as foolproof as possible of course. I can see no argument whatsoever against its use though. Professional ice hockey dispensed with goal judges and replaced them with an electronic eye system years ago. The principle is exactly the same.
But should video review be available for decisions such as the Carlos Tevez goal for Argentina against Mexico? Tevez was clearly offside, a fact which everybody in the ground, including the players and officials could see when the stadium video boards mistakenly re-played the goal. I think the answer now has to be “yes”.
The principle arguments deployed by those against this reform are a) that the laws of the game should be uniform across all levels of the game from Arsenal v Manchester United or Argentina v Mexico to the Hare & Hounds v Finchley Old Boys in the local park on a Sunday morning; and b) that even limited use of technology would open Pandora’s Box.
Taking the first argument I think this is the weakest. The administration of the game’s laws are already different. In top competitions the match officials are already in radio contact. The real issue is equality within a competition. Either the technology is available for all games or none. That isn’t a problem though. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) the guardian of the game’s playing laws and regulations, could maintain an “approved list” of competitions, insisting on evidence that the necessary kit and competence was available before “listing” a competition like the Premier League, Champions League, European Championship, World Cup and so on to permit it to use technology.
The opponents are on stronger ground with the argument about where do you draw a line. The use of video replays in American and Canadian football at both college and professional levels has been controversial. The National Football League dropped video replays for a while after introducing them. They’ve subsequently been brought back in all elite college and professional levels of the gridiron games in the USA and Canada.
Likewise there has been a lot of tinkering since the introduction of the third video umpire in cricket. Clear majority opinion, including the umpires, is for the the video umpire however. Marching backwards is a course upon which only football appears intent. As Harper, a regular poster to this blog points out, most match officials are in favour of any tool which helps them to get their decisions right.
If fans are for the introduction of video technology then I think they need to say so loud and clear. In England & Wales we’re in a unique position of influence as the FA and the FAW have two of the eight votes on IFAB, along with the Scottish FA, the Irish FA and FIFA (which has four votes). The Football Supporters’ Federation passed a resolution at its 2008 Fans’ Parliament favouring trials leading to the introduction of video technology. The FSF is the obvious conduit through which to channel a fans’ campaign. The FSF is also a member of Football Supporters’ Europe (which does what it says on the tin.
The FSF’s annual Fans’ Parliament takes place on Saturday 24 July coming at Wembley Stadium. The weekend before (Sat/Sun 17/18 July) is the third annual European Football Supporters’ Congress at the Espanyol ground in Barcelona.
If you think the FSF should be taking this issue up then post a response to this blog below.
Keep the faith!

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