[By Candice Jones]
We are heading into the last four games of the Fifa World Cup 2010, and if there is one thing that we can take away from the games played so far, it’s that Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s vehement resistance to the use of technology has become untenable.
Sports such as rugby and tennis have shot past football in their adoption of technology, but thanks to the tight grip of the Fifa board and the slow management style of its leader, the beautiful game is lagging far behind.
Blatter has long refused to allow television technology to feature in refereering, despite some crucial blunders by referees at World Cup matches, not the least of which was English striker’s Frank Lampard’s critical goal against Germany in this year’s World Cup, which was not awarded.
England manager Fabio Capello’s was right when he said: “It was very important for us to get that second goal. I don’t understand why in this time of so much technology, we are still talking about this.”
The blunt refusal to use technology is not only archaic, but also misplaced, especially when one looks at how technology has enhanced sports such as cricket, tennis and, most significantly, rugby. Rugby officials have used technology both on and off the field to improve the game.
I’m not saying it’s been all roses for sports that have embraced technology. In fact, in both cricket and rugby, on-field technology initially disempowered referees. And there was a time when they called up to the third umpire for almost everything.
Once referees settled into the idea though, they realise technology is not taking away their power, but just giving them the chance to make better decisions.
Players, too, have welcomed the concept, since it empowers teams to dispute certain calls by umpires.
The use of technology has not become a free-for-all either. Team queries on decisions are limited in many games. At Wimbledon, for instance, tennis players are given three opportunities per match to query any given umpiring decision. Once those are gone, they have to abide by what the umpire decides.
Blatter’s long-held view is that the mistakes made by referees in soccer generate good media hype. But as much as players, coaches and managers want the use of technology to clean up the sport, so do referees. Instant video replays mean refs have to see their mistakes on a giant screen while they are officiating.
Given a third umpire, sideline umpires could also turn their attention to the problem of players diving, among other things.
Blatter has since agreed to open discussion on the use of technology. It’s a pity those taking part in this year’s event won’t benefit from any changes.
- Candice Jones is deputy editor of TechCentral