Frank Dell'Apa: Goal-line technology brings new problems

While the ambition to eliminate human error from key moments is a noble goal, implementing goal-line technology might not go perfectly.
Goal-line technology has been gaining support and will be utilized at the Confederations Cup. Some believe this will solve a major problem in soccer. But there is a hint of overkill surrounding the campaign to implement it on a widespread basis.

Certainly, strong reactions are invoked when a goal is mistakenly denied (or allowed) on a close call at the goal line. And everyone is in favor of referees getting this call right.

However, there are dozens and dozens of refereeing decisions (and non-decisions) which also can decide the outcome of a match; most of these involve sequences far from the goal, yet they are every bit as crucial as those which occur near the goal line.

Installing goal-line cameras is going to be costly, and will be utilized rarely. We are seeing the two “fifth officials” basically standing around and trying to look like they are being useful for 90 minutes, maybe making a call once every several games. I have watched many dozens of matches with goal judges and can think of only one or two in which they played a role.

There were several game-deciding offside decisions in the Premier League and Serie A last weekend, after which La Gazzetta Dello Sport suggested replays be used for offside and goal situations, plus violent conduct.

The problem is, there could be several instances to use the replay every game, so no limit to the amount of stoppages for replays. In the best of situations, with technology working perfectly, this would cause major interruptions in the flow of the match. Most of the time, though, conditions and equipment cannot be perfect, so the time of the interruption could increase, without assuring an accurate conclusion. Also, this would lead to a two-tier system of soccer in which the rules were essentially different for the richest leagues, which can afford to have high-tech equipment at every game.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri suggested a one-minute timeout, “like in basketball,” but that raises another potential problem. This would be another artificial interruption in the flow of the game. And, once those interruptions start, they will only increase. When professional basketball first introduced mandatory timeouts for commercial breaks, they were less than a minute in length. Now, a pro basketball game can have as many as 16 timeouts called over 48 minutes of playing time, with the timeouts lasting as long as 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

And, here’s news – even with all the replay scrutiny, there are still several outcome-determining calls which are not addressed by replays in every basketball game. As has been noted in the NBA, a foul could be called on nearly every possession in the playoffs. They simply have to leave most decisions to referee discretion.

But soccer is progressing toward a clash which will likely favor more technology being utilized by officials. Actually, the sport has been in the midst of that clash for a while now.

As was noted during Juventus’ 1-0 victory over Catania, a result which probably should have been reversed had the correct offside calls been made, nearly everyone in the stadium was analyzing replays on cell phones or tablets, except the six officials who mattered in the decision.

So, it is becoming more difficult to live with officiating mistakes in soccer. But even should more modern video methods be introduced, judgments will still have to be made by referees and no amount of cameras and replays can ensure accuracy.