Blatter defends goal-line technology decision

Anyone who has ever had to explain a joke knows this is a risky course of action. The more detailed your reasoning, the less people are likely to laugh. FIFA president Sepp Blatter clearly isn’t familiar with the principle and has decided to explain the recent decision to rule out using goal-line technology during football matches. If only he’d kept his big mouth shut.

According to the New York Times Blatter “said he wanted soccer to be played under the same rules at all levels and retain its human element.”

He also claimed “that using technology to help referees can be very expensive and stopping games to review decisions would destroy the sport's natural dynamism.”

His comments follow the decision of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to rule out using technology to help referees determine whether a ball has crossed the goal line or not.

Let’s look at his problem with different rules at different levels first.

“The game must be played in the same way no matter where you are in the world,” said Blatter. “If you are coaching a group of teenagers in any small town around the world, they will be playing with the same rules as the professional players they see on TV. Men, women, children, amateurs and professionals all play the same game all over the world.”

Nobody could disagree with that. You can’t have one set of rules in one country and a different set in another.

Moving onto the issue of expensive technology and the danger of stopping the flow of a game, Blatter said “The application of modern technologies can be very costly, and therefore not applicable on a global level. Many matches, even at the highest level, are not even televised.”

He went on to add “Football is a dynamic game that cannot be stopped in order to review a decision. If play were to be stopped to take a decision, it would break up the rhythm of the game and possibly deny a team the opportunity to score a goal.”

Using technology in the case of goal line incidents could also open the floodgates for it to be applied on other parts of the pitch: “Every decision in every area of the pitch would soon be questioned,” concluded Blatter.

I don’t think I’ve seen so many red herrings in an interview in my life. Nobody is actually saying twelve-year-olds in London should play to a different set of rules than their peers in Lisbon or Lima. While matches between young kids can be very competitive, even the most contentious decisions are forgotten fairly quickly, unlike in the professional game, where debates linger on for months and referees are given death threats because of wrong calls. The bottom line is this – we only need goal-line technology at the top echelons of the game.

Yes, introducing goal-line technology across the world at every level would be ruinously expensive, but replays are used at the top of the modern Rugby League game and (I think) in American Football without compromising the integrity of games at lower levels.

As for football being a “dynamic game”, of course it is, and only an idiot would want to stop that. But the debate is about goal-line technology, in other words what happens when a ref has to decide whether a shot crossed the line or not. It isn’t about scrutinising every decision. This is really about Blatter using smoke and mirrors to duck the issue.

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