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The Ref’s A Wall-E

Technology. The debate rages on.

There was a time when we accepted myopia and human error as in inherent flaw in human kind. Just look at Bill Clinton; his entire post-presidential career is fed on a caricature manifested by his greatest ‘mistake’.

Even in man’s greatest creation – that is football, of course, what is remembered the most, what is reminisced about constantly, are mistakes: the Hand of God, Beckham’s attempt to swap socks with Diego Simione by using only his big toe, the gullible Russian linesman in 1966. Yet, now everyone wants to do away with this time-honoured tradition that makes football such a riveting game, and a social and cultural phenomenon.

Since about 3:42 p.m. on Sunday, the great people of England have clamoured for a robot with five-gazillion sensors that can zoom around a football pitch like an R2D2-Derren Brown hybrid, making decisions about our beautifully unpredictable game. Since Sunday, the British press has bellowed at FIFA to implement hawkeye cameras on the goal-line without questioning the expense that it’s implementation would take on a League One side striving to avoid administration. Now, the ‘public’ want videos of every second of every minute of every match streamed to the referees watch till, in the end, Howard Webb actually stays at home and referees via the red button in his jammies.

Admittedly, it is a debate that has continually surfaced before, but it is a debate that has polarized fans. Now, according to the press, every Briton should be aghast at the fact that Johnny 5 or Wall-E wasn’t on hand to offer assistance to the Uruguayan linesman on Sunday.

Even had the unfortunate – and perhaps more alarming – incident in the Argentina/Mexico game not followed, there would’ve still been serious questions about inducting technology into the game. Because that’s what English football fans do so well: focus on the injustices of the game, rather than the fact that English football from the ground upwards is reeling around for mercy like Sergio Busquets in a tumble-dryer after years of neglect.

Germany won that match not because they were lucky or because the linesman had lost his opticians prescription, but because England never played as a team.And now, fueled by the sense of injustice and jingoistic ignorance, the British press is hounding FIFA to implement something, anything, without themselves having a clue of how or what to implement.

Look at the options: cameras on the goal-line. How can clubs further down the ladder of football afford to implement such a system? When Chelsea visit Vauxhall Motors in the FA Cup, should the bill for the technology be forced upon the minnows? FIFA and the FA certainly won’t foot it. Or where do you draw the line, who gets technology and who doesn’t?

A video referee is another suggestion. But, how can a referee have confidence in the decisions he is making if someone else is Sky Plus-ing every movement he makes to second guess him? Plus, if a goal can be contested via video replay, why not a penalty, a foul, a free-kick, a handball, a corner, the coin flip. Where does it end?

There’s a suggestion to have an appeal system. Ok, that works well in tennis. But footballers appeal for damn near everything. What happens if a perfectly good goal is disallowed once the appeals have been used? Injustice will still exist. It could even give referees an excuse, or at least let them off the hook somewhat.

What about time-wasting with the appeal system? Imagine a team defending a one goal lead and then contesting every other decision just to break down momentum. Fans already seethe at players going down like they’ve been stricken by a sudden onset of leprosy to waste time, how are they going to feel watching continuous hawk-eye digital replays of their team’s miserable performance?

Technology is a Pandora’s Box. Its implementation may be further reaching than simply allowing or disallowing a goal. Just because other sports have successfully fused together the game and technology doesn’t mean football should follow suit; there are still many other sports that have yet to embrace technology.

So, will the Terminator be showing up at a football ground near you? Time will tell. If Sepp Blatter decides against it though, you can bet the debate will be back.

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Article title: The Ref’s A Wall-E

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