Despite being hailed as the most popular sport in the world, football has often been slow to adapt and keep up with the times, especially when it comes to technological advances.
Recent years have seen the introduction of both goal-line technology and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), but it has often felt like the sport has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Technology on the football pitch has always been treated with suspicion, with Sepp Blatter famously declaring the introduction of VAR at the 2018 World Cup to be a “not very clever” move.
Teething problems and resistance to new technology
VAR is now utilised in most of the top European football leagues since its first live trial between Dutch sides PSV and FC Eindhoven in 2016.
While the tech is now prevalent in world football, that has not stopped criticism of the system from fans and administrators alike. Some feel that it has lengthened games and led to players hesitating to celebrate goals in case it is chalked off upon video replay, while others think a lack of clarity and consistency is a huge problem.
Human error is definitely a concern, with referees still required to judge games via video replay to prevent errors from their counterparts on the field.
Goal-line tech in the form of the Hawk-Eye system was also introduced during the 2013/14 season, while FIFA utilised GoalControl during the 2014 World Cup.
While its implementation seemed straightforward enough and fairly unobstrusive, it still had its share of doubters including then-FIFA president Blatter. Many others felt it would remove the human element from the game and take away the opportunity to banter about such errors.
“Other sports regularly change the laws of the game to react to the new technology. We don’t do it and this makes the fascination and the popularity of football.” – Sepp Blatter.
Several high profile incidents have softened opposition to the tech, including Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal at the 2010 World Cup when the ball clearly crossed the line.
Given the relentless criticism from some quarters, and the maddening inconsistency in applying tech in football, perhaps the World Game can take some pointers from other sports that have implemented various new technologies to some success.
Reducing the margin of error in tennis
Making marginal calls in cricket
Speeding up games in baseball
Give it time, do it right
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