Is FIFA being pedestrian in its approach to technology?

June 27, 2010

England's Frank Lampard (R) celebrates with team mate Wayne Rooney after a shot at the goal during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against Germany at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010. A video replay showed that Lampard's shot had crossed the line but was not given by referee Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay (L). REUTERS/Darren Staples

Two goals, one denied and another granted, queered the pitch for use of technology in the beautiful game.

Trailing 2-1 against Germany in a do-or-die pre-quarterfinal match at the 2010 World Cup, England’s Frank Lampard unleashed a long ranger in the 39th minute which beat the goalkeeper and hit the crossbar.

Even as the English players started celebrating, the referee waved play on although replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the line in Bloemfontein.

The romantics will call it poetic justice as this brings back memories of England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany — where the exact opposite had happened. Geoff Hurst’s goal was allowed and England went on to lift the cup.

Within a few hours, Carlos Tevez was clearly offside when he put Argentina ahead in the 26th minute against Mexico. The twice champions went on to win 3-1 and will now meet Germany in the quarterfinals.

FIFA’s critics say this was afterall the world’s biggest stage and the margin for error should be zero.

But FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said that the use of video technology was “definitely not on the table”. He said it is impossible to have a “zero-fault” system.

Online chatrooms and social networking sites are already abuzz with heated discussions about the use of technology in football.

Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer watches as the ball crosses the line during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against England at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010. England were denied an equalising goal on Sunday when a Frank Lampard shot from 2O metres out hit the crossbar and dropped well over the line. REUTERS/Eddie KeoghWhat was shaping up as a classic match between the traditional rivals slid into a one-sided romp for the Germans in the second half. Germany won 4-1.

World soccer’s governing body FIFA has so far been steadfast in its reluctance to use technology to assist the referee and linesmen although other sports like cricket and tennis have already adopted it.

Various European leagues do allow video evidence after the end of the contest to review and penalise a player for misconduct not noticed by the match officials during play.

But instant replays are still not used in the most global of sports. In its defence FIFA says “the game must be played in the same way no matter where you are in the world.”

Is this decision not to deploy technology in football justified in this day and age?


Hundreds of cameras cover such matches from all possible angles and millions watch it live. Umpire and linesmen, the human beings managing the game is under tremendous pressure to be calling it right the first time! High time FIFA revisits their stand on use of technology.

Posted by Shibs | Report as abusive

I didn’t watch the match and I am not sure if England would have won it had Lampard’s goal been allowed. But it does cause fans a lot of heartburn — the big ‘if’. Not everybody is happy with Hawk-Eye technology being used in tennis. But video replays may not be that controversial. FIFA should clearly rethink this. For the moment, England can blame the referee but still — no one can take the victory away from Germany.

Posted by kneetoe | Report as abusive

It would be interesting to trace the intensity of the chat room chatter (+blogs +articles +other media) as a function of the countries they originate in. Is it strongest in countries which are not traditional powerhouses (i.e USA?). How about where sports where technologies are already heavily used (e.g. Cricket). It is also probably too simplistic to refer to FIFA as a single entity. The guys at the top who are resistant to change in FIFA – are these mostly European or Latin Americans? Is it just that they are dogmatic because these are old dogs who just by nature are resistant to any kind of change? The simple arguments that FIFA seem to have made seem ridiculous and illogical. There must be more to it than meets the eye.

Posted by jorobins | Report as abusive

We have been playing football without these highly precision cameras for so long.. Its true that the introduction of such cameras will make things easier and impartial…. but then we will see each & every player arguing for the replay of every foul to be reviewed… every goal or controversial goal to be reviewed over and over again… and the actual playtime may diminish to less than 60 or 50 minutes, with 5 or 6 minutes of added time.. ..

Posted by vinu_72 | Report as abusive

I think a fair balance is appropriate. There is no point in having 90 minutes of a game, if the end result is ultimately flawed. In American football for example, coaches are allowed 2 challenges to referee decisions per half. Something similar could be instituted in football. Maybe only on goals and red card fouls can challenges be made – anything that can unfairly turn the game into a farce. It may be true that the game was played without any high precision cameras till now. But then, neither did the viewers of the game have endless replays from multiple angles either. So we are entering a new era, where referees are going to be ridiculed and reviled for bad decisions endlessly by the eagle eyes of the new cameras… So it’s time that some evolutionary steps were taken. If tradition always held sway in every sport, we would still be having 7 day test matches in cricket, one day cricket would be unknown and soccer players would not be sporting their last names on their jerseys.

Posted by jorobins | Report as abusive

Errors are random unless there is motive behind it, so if England lost this time because of error of judgement,due to this randomness of error they would win also. In other words, in the long run nobody continues to win because of random error.

Posted by Pinaki_Cborty | Report as abusive

Agreeing to the point made by Pinaki_Cborty above. That IN THE LONGRUN, NOBODY CONTINUES TO WIN BECAUSE OF RANDOMNESS OF ERROR!!

There is an empirical evidence to this point made by Pinaki here itself. Madhu wrote: “….The romantics will call it poetic justice as this brings back memories of England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany — where the exact opposite had happened. Geoff Hurst’s goal was allowed and England went on to lift the cup……….”.!!! …

One question remain. How judiciously one can implement technology in football, especially in FIFA fief-dom?

Posted by L_Chakraborty | Report as abusive

To suggest that random errors would ‘eventually’ be averaged out is not a reasonable view. Would you really want to wait 45 years to negate one error with a compensating one? Especially with a new generation of short attention span sport enthusiasts, soccer is not just competing with other sports, but with other media options including the internet, games, social media. So the argument that random statistical principles will eventually prevail in evening out unfair outcomes, is not going to appeal to them.

Posted by jorobins | Report as abusive

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