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Now You See It...

Now You See It...

the 5th of July 2012 may not be a date etched on the memory of football fans, but its significance should not be underestimated. It was on that day in Zurich that the International Football Association Board (“IFAB”) met and finally approved the introduction of video technology in football.

The use of technology in football has long been a controversial issue. The when, how and where to use it often meant the discussion became too difficult and any attempts to properly consider its introduction did not get off the ground. The legal and practical implications of using such technology often seemed fraught with difficulties. However, following several rounds of testing of various systems, IFAB finally confirmed that goal-line technology ('GLT') was to be introduced and the relevant Laws of the Game were to be amended.

GLT was the most obvious way in which video technology could be introduced into football with the least disruption. The introduction of GLT followed some high-profile incidents where match officials failed to award goals when the ball had clearly crossed the line. One of the most recent high-profile mistakes came in 2010 when England’s Frank Lampard’s “goal” was disallowed in a FIFA World Cup match against Germany (in the interests of balance however, it should be pointed out that England benefited from the lack of GLT in their Euro 2012 match against Ukraine when a “goal” was not given for the Ukrainians, despite the ball having crossed the line).

The introduction of GLT has been widely welcomed and was used in the FIFA World Cup in 2014 to prevent any further “ghost goal” incidents. Despite its success however, there has been much resistance to the further introduction of video technology into football. Opponents to the increasing use of technology argue that football is different from other sports and the “flow” of football would be disrupted if technology was introduced further than GLT. However, those in favour say that the stakes are too high in modern-day football and the sport needs to utilise all available resources and technology to ensure the right decision are made by match officials. The increased rewards available at the top-level of modern-day football means that one incorrect decision could literally cost a club millions of pounds. And there are some decisions that can’t be over-turned in court.

Certainly video technology is used in almost all other major sports with rugby, tennis, cricket and American football all having adopted video technology to real-time reviews of on-pitch decisions. But football has been resistant to the use of the introduction of any further video technology, beyond GLT. Until now.

Last month, IFAB met in Wales and made a landmark decision. IFAB agreed to allow a video assistant referee to have access to video replays during the match. The video assistant’s role would be to either review an incident on request by the referee, or communicate with the referee proactively about an incident that may have been missed. FIFA states that: “[T]he expectation is not to achieve 100 per cent accuracy in decisions for every single incident, but to avoid clearly incorrect decisions that are pre-defined “game-changing” situations – goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and mistaken identity.”

One can only imagine the effect this further use of technology will have on Monday morning debates with colleagues about incorrect decision from the weekend’s game or how the Match of the Day pundits will fill their time if they can’t talk about “shocking refereeing decisions”. But, the decision of IFAB is certainly a “game-changer” and once the video technology flood gates open – they will be impossible to close.

One upcoming event it’s fair to say won’t be utilising GLT , or any other kind of video technology for that matter, is the Homeless World Cup taking place in George Square Glasgow between 10-16 July this year. In total, 512 players playing for 64 teams and representing 52 countries will come together in a unique, pioneering social movement which uses football to inspire homeless people to change their own lives. We’re proud to be sponsoring Team Scotland at this year’s tournament and would encourage as many people as possible to try and get along to watch the team in action. Entry is free every day, and tickets are not required. We hope to see you there!

Neeraj Thomas

This article was published in The Herald on Monday 18 April 2016. Please click here to view it.