Soccer is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports worldwide. From regional club championship to the world cup, each soccer event is watched with tremendous enthusiasm by people all over the world. As soon as the match starts and until it ends, soccer fascinates its viewers by passes, shots, tackles, free kicks and penalties. Of course, in the course of all this, there are also goals. Whenever the ball enters the goal, it is a moment of triumph. For a moment everyone watching is left awe-struck until the realization sets in, and then there is much rejoices.
However, what if, the referee blows his whistle and says the goal was invalid. Moreover, what if, a ball that was seemingly deflected by the goalkeeper is counted as a goal. Obviously, this would have its repercussions, but this is the idea pronounced in the goal line technology. Two IFA-approved methods of implementing goal line so far exist – Hawk-Eye and GoalRef. To start a discussion about goal line, it should be understood how each of these technique works.
Hawk-Eye, the more favored technique, is one which is already being utilized in the sports of cricket and tennis. The technique makes use of six high-speed cameras linked to fast-processing computers. These cameras track every movement of the soccer ball as it moves through the field, and the computers calculate the relative position on the ball based on metrics provided by the cameras.
When the ball would pass the goal line, the computers would be able to determine this and the possibility of a goal would have to be judged.
The technique is more favored because of its potential to produce excellent 3D replays of what took place, and also because it can be used on-field for other purposes than just goal line. For instance, the curves a specific free kick shot took, or even if an offside actually occurred or not could be realized with the help of Hawk-Eye. However, this technique would be quite expensive to implement. High-speed cameras aside, every soccer stadium would also need to implement black netting which is also a prerequisite of Hawk-Eye. On the other hand, GoalRef is a much more economical option. GoalRef makes use of a low-powered magnetic field around the posts and a magnetic probe in the ball. As soon as the low-powered magnetic field is found to be penetrated by the magnetic probe completely, the referee is notified through a hand-held device that a goal has occurred and the referee can announce it almost immediately.
The relative simplicity of the design and technology being used also makes it easier for ball manufacturers to add probes into the balls. However, compared to the multiplicity of uses that Hawk-Eye provides, GoalRef is a bit lacking. Taking into consideration these factors, the discussion in this paper would focus on both the technologies rather than one. (EuroSport, 2012) Goal line technology has been debated from both ends of the argument by various soccer overseeing bodies – such as FIFA and UEFA – for much of the last decade. However, to-date, no compromise has been reached. There are two reasons for which goal line technology has been proposed.
Firstly, according to international soccer rules, a goal is scored if a ball completely passes the goal line. However, the on-field referee cannot judge this as he has to stay away from the goal during times of attack and defense. In the recent past, this inability of referees has resulted in many wrong judgments. Secondly, the use of decision-aid technology is being aggressively integrated in various other sports. With every passing year, popular sports across the world are introducing decision-aid technology to either aid existing referees or even replace them. As the pressure on soccer associations mount, it has become necessary to realize whether goal line technology is good or bad for the game. This paper would argue that goal line technology is essential as it provides essential benefit to the game and also because arguments against it are largely invalid.
Providing Transparent Justice
The inclusion of technology, however slight, in decision-making capabilities would enhance the decisions made by the referees. The refereeing system employed in soccer is known to possess quite limited capabilities (Collins, 2010). In essence, it consists of three individuals; a main referee and two assistant referees. The standard is that the main referee runs diagonally from the north-east of the field to the south-west. However, the main referee does not normally enter the penalty area. However, both of the aforementioned criteria are not strict and the referee can follow his own path during the course of the match. As the diagonal run of the main referee covers the north-east and south-west area of the field, the assistant referees essentially are responsible for judging the north-west and south-east area of the field. The assistant referees are also responsible for calling offside and throws. From this brief description, it might seem that the refereeing system is quiet adequate. However, this is quite incorrect as this system does not allow the referee to provide what is known by transparent justice, i.e. what appears to be the most correct decision (Colwell, 2000).
First of all, it should be noted that the issue of transparent justice only arose in the last 15-20 years as broadcasting of soccer matches and events grew only more popular (Colwell, 2000). Before that the referee’s decisions were largely associated with presumptive justice, i.e. justice is done because one was in position to assess it. This presumptive justice was assumed to be transparent justice. The referee called it as he saw it, and that was the end of it. The referee’s authority was based on the notion of epistemological privilege, i.e. the referee was in the position to best see it as it is, as he had the closest view of the player’s action and he possessed greater knowledge of soccer rules (Colwell, 2000; Collins, 2010). However, with television broadcasting, there came the concept of replays. The replay allowed the viewer to see from multiple of angles an event within the match. Moreover, even the notion of speed could be slowed down to clearly realize what actually happened within a particular event in the match. Even further, the rules of soccer were quickly made available online and the growing interest in soccer made players known to most of the rules (Leveaux, 2010).
The epistemological privilege that the referee held had been completely desecrated when newer technologies came to be known (Colwell, 2000). The referee no longer had the superior view, as the viewers through television often could see what actually occurred from different views and even speeds. This provided the viewer to be in a position of greater epistemological privilege than the referee. As the referee has lost his epistemological privilege, it has only become questionable that soccer relies only on the referee to make decisions. Some might even question whether referees are even needed as even a knowledgeable individual watching the match from a television set is bound to make better calls than the on-field referee. The loss of epistemological privilege is best seen in the penalty area. The most intense of occurrences in soccer tend to occur in the penalty area (Collins, 2010). However, it is also one area where the referee cannot be present (EuroSport, 2012). As is quite frequent, the penalty area tends to be filled up with defenders and attackers during an intense play, and the referee can in such a position only view from far.
Moreover, any decisions that the referee makes is from a distant viewpoint or either through the help of an assistant referee (Collins, 2010). However, this means that the referee is not able to call it as it is, but rather call it as he sees it. This means that the referee is no longer the best provider of transparent justice in a match. The issue particularly arises as sometimes during most intense of plays the ball barely passes through the goal line and is then quickly pulled out by a defending player or the goalkeeper. Such an occurrence cannot be seen clearly either by the referee or any of his assistants. It should now be noted that the goal line technology allows even such a brief event to be recognized and hence transparent justice to be provided. For this reason, as a goal line technology would provide better justice, and as the notion of fair play requires that better justice be provided, the argument for the implementation of goal-line technology only gathers momentum.
The Invalidity of Arguments Against
The main reason for not implementing the technology is said to be that it would reduce the fun in the game. Although this reason seems to be one of the weaker ones that can be given against GLT, it also seems to be the one that many aficionados and supporters favor. For them (and it seems for FIFA), it is these types of incidents in sport that gives it value and makes it entertaining. The notion that fans still argue about England’s goal against Germany in 1966 and their more recent disallowed attempt in the 2010 World Cup as well as countless incidents in club games, indicate that these events remain in footballing consciousness. Yet at the same time, people seem wedded to the idea of justice and fairness and would protest vehemently if they or their team were unfairly penalized or given an undue handicap. Furthermore, in professional sport, where careers and livelihoods are dependent on fair and impartial decisions, the idea that sport is better by not implementing technology that would assist in sporting justice seems peculiar indeed. (Leveaux, 2010; Ryall, 2012)
The philosophy of sport literature is replete with discussion on fairness and justice so much so that it arguably accounts for the greatest proportion of academic thought in this domain, whether this centers on doping, cheating, spoiling, or the characters and virtues of those involved. So to say that it doesn’t really matter whether sport is fair or not seems to be inconsistent with the amount of time and effort devoted to discussing it. Sport is based on a notion of fairness however that notion is defined. If players didn’t think that they were being given a fair chance (and this includes handicaps in sports such as sailing and golf) then they would soon give up participating. As such, it would be absurd to argue that officials (at the bequest of governing bodies such as FIFA) provide these controversial incidents so that fans have something to argue about in the pub. Referee Jorge Larrionda didn’t disallow England’s goal against Germany in 2010 because he was being unfair, he simply made a mistake in his observation.
As far as Larrionda was concerned he was attempting to be as fair and consistent with the rules as possible, it was his observation skills that let him down. As is noted with reference to FIFA’s other reasons, human error is something that FIFA is happy to accept and even embrace. FIFA’s response may be that since these incidents are rare, the benefit gained from them in entertainment value outweighs the cost to the game itself. What FIFA doesn’t consider in this response however, is the cost that is borne by individual stakeholders, such as managers, players, club owners and investors. Such a cost / benefit analysis, that FIFA appear to adopt with this reason, is a very crude tool to use at the business end of the game. Hence, FIFA’s argument is largely unfounded and does not have any basis. (Leveaux, 2010; Ryall, 2012)
Support for Technology Implementation
Another reason why technology should be implemented is because the implementation of technology has gathered tremendous support in the past few years. Especially after the incorrect calls in the 2010 World Cup and in some recent league championships, viewers, players and even soccer clubs themselves have called upon FIFA to test and promote implementation of goal line technologies (Ryall, 2012). Even FIFA itself recognized the need for goal line technology after the blunder of the 2010 World Cup (Leveaux, 2010). Despite the necessity of it being realized and this much support, FIFA has time and again waivered on its stance to implement goal line technology. More recently, the head of UEFA blatantly renounced goal line technology by stating that this is not what the fans want, and this is not what the referees want, and this is not what the soccer clubs themselves want. However, there can be no absurd and blatantly wrong assumption than this.
A study of the referee’s viewpoints on implementation of technology was conducted by Leveaux (2010). The study interviewed nearly 40 referees from soccer, and also many others from other sports. The referees were interviewed on a variety of topics, one of which was the implementation of technology. Interestingly, majority referees called for decision-aid technology to be implemented in their respective sports. Amongst soccer referees this majority was unanimous. All soccer referees called for technology to be implemented in soccer. Two rationales were provided behind this by the referees themselves. The referees first stated that the notion that soccer is a simple game that has not been intruded by technology so far is incorrect. In fact, technology is currently utilized by referees themselves in pre-game preparation and also in monitoring time-related events, i.e. extra time.
Hence, if any implementation is denied on the basis that technology would make the sport lose its charm, it was wrong according to the referees. Moreover, the referees said that the burden of wrong decisions often falls on them and there is not much protection provided to them when such cases occur. Indeed, there are stories of referees being verbally abused for a wrong call. In some cases, referees have also been abused of making right but unpopular calls. The rationale then was that by including goal line technology, the referees would be able to steer the burden of the any possible decision away from them to the accurate technology. Hence, it should be noted that referees were in support of such an implementation and not against it as UEFA and FIFA would have one believe.
Even fans and players support the notion of goal line technology. A survey conducted amongst avid soccer fans in AUS also resulted in a similar viewpoint. The survey focused on two questions. The first question was how much does an individual debate on the notion of whether the ball passed the goal or it did not. The second question was straightforwardly asking whether goal line technology should be implemented or not. Around 50 AUS students were surveyed, and all of them were avid fans of soccer. The results found vastly supported the implementation of goal line technology. It was found that a very insignificant minority (15%) actually debated things such as whether the ball passed the goal line, and most people often did not even notice when such things happened during the match.
Moreover, nearly 95% said that a technology should be implemented if it allows for a better call on whether a goal has occurred or not. The reason behind this was that soccer fans would like goals to count in a sport where goals rarely occur at times. For instance, in between teams of equal strength, even a single goal could decide the match; however, often the games go on to penalty, and this is more undesirable than even the slight opposition to goal line technology. It should also be noted that a literature review found that most soccer players tend to be supportive of goal line technology. This was because most of these people often worked hard to bring the ball from one half to another, and when a goal that had occurred was not awarded it was often cause for frustration. Hence, it should be realized that implementation of goal line technology held massive amounts of support in fans, referees and players.
From the discussion above, it is quite clear that the argument for the implementation of goal line technology has a lot of benefits and support. The use of different systems can also allow to make the match only more interesting rather than disrupting to the game’s ‘flow’ or element of ‘interest’. Moreover, the arguments against do not have any actual basis in them. Surveys and literature review have not found any arguments to be valid. More or less, the arguments against is based on the opinions of a select few people are known to be conservative and whose personal interests in the game are affected by the technology.
In comparison, an astounding majority supports and advocates the use of goal line technology, and this includes soccer players and almost all soccer fans. It should be noted that the world is changing everyday as newer technological progress is made. In this technologically progressing era, it is only questionable that a sport as popular as soccer has not implemented any aspects of technology within it. When even the most mundane of sports such as cricket have included not only one but dozens of technology that aid in decision-making to its umpires. For these reasons, it should be realized that soccer games should possess goal line technology.
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