KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH
— The most contentious of political footballs has definitively and incontrovertibly crossed the line: goal-line technology is now a fact.
Football’s law-makers, the International Board, decided on Thursday at FIFA’s House of Football in Zurich that the game should move with the times.
Five years ago experimentation was abandoned because none of the systems tested came up to scratch. Then came Frank Lampard’s ‘phantom goal’ at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when his shot in England’s second round tie against Germany hit the underside, ricocheted down behind the line then bounced out. The Uruguayan referee waved play on and England lost 4-1.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, until then an opponent of technology on the grounds that it infringed the ‘universality’ of the game, flip-flopped overnight under the weight of embarrassment at the worldwide criticism and ridicule.
Experiments were revived and two systems – from Hawkeye and GoalRef – were submitted, by the IFAB annual meeting near London in March, to final testing this past spring.
Testing of Hawkeye – widely experienced in different versions in cricket, tennis and rugby – included the Wembley friendly against Belgium which provided England’s send-off to the Euro 2012 finals.
Blatter’s desire to see GLT approved was revealed starkly with his insistence that it was a “necessity” after the Ukraine-England incident when Marko Devic was denied an equaliser after John Terry hooked the ball out from beyond the goal-line. Hungarian assistant Istvan Vad – employed as a goal-line assistant under the rival and experimental five-officials system – could not have been better placed.
No matter that Ukraine should have been pulled up for offside earlier in the move: Blatter had been handed the final bullet to shoot down any remaining opponents of GLT (including UEFA president Michel Platini).
On Saturday, Platini’s UEFA executive committee made one last attempt to block the advent of goal-line technology. It approved the dispatch of a letter to FIFA and IFAB asking for a ‘debate on technology in football in general’ before any decision on goal-line systems.
This was ignored.
Approval within the eight-strong IFAB demands a three-quarters majority, i.e. six. Each representative of the four British ‘home’ associations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) has a vote and all four had declared themselves in favour of GLT in principle, pending satisfactory final testing.
The other four votes, controlled by FIFA, were all cast en bloc . . . by Blatter.
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