I don’t really like tennis. But if I did, id be happy going down to my local John Lloyd type building place thing, and hitting a few balls with pals. Of course with the close calls on the bassline id have to trust my mates judgement. He would probably cheat. Id scream at him. Maybe throw my racket in the air in McEnroe disgust. But ultimately…we would go down the pub…and argue about the decisions with a grimace and a packet of pork scratchings.
All very nice.
However, if I was Rafa Nadal…with my flowing Spanish locks, and my athletic, ab punched body…running around centre court at Wimbledon…I may just be a tad more bothered about whether my perfect bassline shots were in or out. You know…with it meaning a few extra million dollars in my bank account and all. Id also not give two huge tosses if lower down the food chain other players were not afforded the technology that ive been given…because I am at the top of the sport…the creme de la creme. And frankly it means MORE.
The biggest argument against technology in football for the last couple of decades has been its universal use on football pitches from Upton Park to Hackney Marshes. FIFA and its dictator Sepp Blatter have always argued that this is ‘the Beautiful Game’…yeah you know? The game that costs £3 billion to watch (we pay that, not Sky) and is dripping with corruption and racism from Italy and Russia, to the Chelsea and Liverpool training grounds. Its…just…so…beautiful.
Of course im fully aware of what the ethos behind the term ‘beautiful game’ is. But there’s a rat in my kitchen…what im a gonna do?
That rat is called controversy.
Once upon a time the most controversial thing you got in football was goalkeepers getting bundled over the line with the ball firmly in their hands, or guessing how many recreational drugs Diego Maradona had shoved in his shorts. Today it happens in every match. Part fuelled by the advent of the technological age. And part fuelled by our incessant media, striving to write a story that doesn’t already exist yet. Talksport has record listeners. I’m one of them at times. But their audience is filled by those that need their fix of ranting about last nights offside decision. Or about whether John Terry’s clearance was over the line or not.
Fact was we all knew that Terry was unsuccessful with his clearance, as brilliantly as he did to hook it off the line. We also know that a linesman touchline assistant referee bloke who was ten yards from Terry, in line with the post…couldnt make the call whether the ball went over or not. We ALSO know that the Ukraine attack was maligned by the fact the first phase of play was clearly offside. And those of us that crave the soap opera outcomes of football rang every phone-in known to man to blame it all on Frank Lampard’s non-goal vs Germany. Controversy was created…and football and its sponsors laughed its pretty little ‘Maybe Its Maybelene’ heads off.
But I didn’t laugh. I do not like the soap opera outcomes of football.
Yes…I love the drama. The REAL drama. If I was a City fan I would now quote the end of this season. But instead I will remember a young Norwegian lad putting the ball in the Germans net. The real drama in football is why we do this. Why we watch. It is not Eastenders. It is not scripted with a pub fight here and a Thierry Henry style handball there. We love the sport…the herculean effort our players put in. Not the trash that the tabloids feed off.
This is where my sensibly worded article, that many of you im sure agree with, goes ‘Off Piste’
Goal line technology is here. Even Blatter is admitting it…like it was his idea or something (they will probably rename HawkEye…BlattersSpecs) Its inception is upon us, and the sport will be changed…for the BETTER…forever. Wonderful. Fantastic. Ten years too late. For many years football fans watching the match on their giant plasmas at home have had the opportunity to review refereeing decisions in almost a split second, and from multiple angles. This is where a large chunk of that £3 billion has gone! In fact, the management teams on the touchlines have had the opportunity to view decisions in real-time with hardly a fraction of the game continued. You’d see a Benitez or a Wenger or a Fergie arms up in air, about to molest the fourth official…as they and an audience of a billion had seen that Didier Drogba was 3 yards offside…scoring goals that win titles. And yet these replays have meant NOTHING. Except it makes for lots of good football punditry material for some not very good football pundits. And Colin Murray. And Mick Quinn.
But is this what we want? Or does football really need to go techno?
I wrote an article in 2009 called Technosoccer
It was a radical rethink of what football ‘said on the tin’
I got called all sorts for it, and understandably so. I wanted to rip apart the fabric of football, and almost create a new game. But my point in hand was about working towards ironing out the now needless controversy that we are fed as a result of every less than perfect refereeing decision. Purists will tell you there’s nothing wrong with football. But these will be the same people who bitch about cameras in cricket stumps and how the 8 Track is better than your iPod. Currently the football fan is being conned by football, simply to add some needless spice to the pot. Football on the bone is the nicest piece of meat you will ever taste. But serve it up with all the trimmings, and you complete the dish.
The football menu needs a full evaluation and fast. That rat is still running round the kitchen, and I don’t want my food anywhere near that rodent!
So what would Rob B do?
Yeah, firstly goal line technology. Id have that. The other thing i would have is technology for offsides. ‘BUT THAT WILL DESTROY THE GAME. IT WILL BE SO SLOW. IT WILL BE LIKE AMERICAN FOOTBALL’…I can hear you all shouting in unison right now. My answer is…no it wont. For all Premier League and major championships id have a bona fide video ref. Now how we use this ref…that would need refining. But in essence he would be hooked up to the man in black or yellow or indigo on the pitch. So lets take the England Ukraine incident. Would a video ref have backed up the awarding of the goal? Nope. And why? Cos he would have identified the offside almost immediately…through the power of technology…and he would have informed the on-pitch ref to halt play and pull the damn thing back. For me, this technology should be utilised. It is pathetic that we have it, yet we rely on some middle age man running around with professional athletes to get every decision correct. I bet every linesman has their eyes tested. I bet they have as good an eyesight as any on this planet. Yet it is NOT good enough to get every decision correct. So do we enjoy this continued conjecture? Or do we bloody do something about it!!??
Many have suggested that football should have a review system similar to tennis, but im not so sure. I think if the ball goes in the back of the net, and a video ref identifies it within what would be a very small period of time post goal that there’s been an infringement, that the goal is then scrubbed and the correct call is made. Imagine how stuffed that rat would be!? With traps laid in every cupboard. Football could be a sport again, rather than talking about all that trash. We could save football from its own BS.
What else would I have? Well….along with a video ref…id have a bona fide timekeeper. So no more referee wearing 3 watches, like its 1966. And everytime that there was an extended passage where play stops, for an injury or a Dimitar Berbatov ciggie break, THE…CLOCK…STOPS. No more stupid injury time. No more making it up as we go along. Stop the clock…and when we get to 90 minutes…the game ends. Yes this is very similar to rugby. It is objective, unlike football’s stupid subjectivity. When there’s a substitute being made, if said player wants to crawl off at a snail’s pace and waste time…the clock stops. Goalkeeper wants to tie his laces for 3 minutes before a goalkick…the clock stops. Joey Barton decides to fight Tevez and deck Aguero…the clock stops. This is all too simple. But once again football prefers the controversial decision: “REF THERE MUST BE AT LEAST 5 MINUTES INJURY TIME YOU…”…No. Because injury time is for dinosaurs. At 90 we know the game is done. Every top stadium would have a massive clock hooked up for the world to see. Easy. Of course, the clock wouldnt stop for throw-ins, etc. That would be stupid.
What else? What else could I ruin? Well id have 3 cards. Not just yellow and red. Orange maybe? (told you this is off piste) Why? Because smashing through someone and trying to rip their leg off is the same offence as taking your shirt off. Both a yellow? Both the same as encroachment (a yellow) the same as a handball (a yellow) the same as looking at the ref the wrong way (a yellow) ….Also these cards would mean real-time discipline. The basic yellow card…5 minutes sin bin. The more serious orange card (or green or pink..i dont care) …15 minutes. Awarded for serious foul play…normally a bad tackle. And a red is still a red and an ejection from the field. This wouldn’t be to make football more exciting…BUT IT WILL STOP FLAGRANT CHEATING. Another element to football’s bag of controversy. Lets get decisions correct and lets give the correct punishments out for them. Lets make football more of an even playing field. If you’re a dirty team, you’re basically going to be stuffed. So too bad on you Wimbledon Crazy Gang of the 80s. Cheats do not prosper when half your team is in a sin bin.
Other sports employ all of these things. Yet Lion King football on his majestic seat of power thinks he is above rule changes and ‘being like other sports’…But the game is just that….A GAME! It needs boundaries and it needs controls in place. We need to regulate it. Make it as clear as possible. Am i happy when bad decisions go for United…not really. Only in a fandom way. Id rather see the correct decision given every time. So when a Balotelli stamps on someones head…its spotted. And yes…when an Ashley Young dives…that too is corrected. The truth WILL set you and I free. And it will make football a better ‘sport’.
Off course none of this will ever happen…well…so we think. When I wrote ‘Technosoccer’ in 2009 it appeared FIFA would never sanction goal line technology. And here we are today, with King Blatter declaring a new world order, that includes new technology.
People are scared of change, both in football and in life. They want that cuddly bear they’ve slept with since they were a child. They want to feel that change can’t affect them. And they’d rather we watched yet another game that is decided by a referee’s lack of robotic precision rather than a footballer’s brilliance.
But personally im sick of it. I want to watch a sport. Not a pack of lies. Football is conning us. Football is conning itself. One day someone is going to win a world cup match where a player jumps up and punches the ball into the net over the top of an English goalkeeper and….oh wait.
If you have a shovel to dig a hole, you don’t opt to use a spoon instead… just because it’s all you’ve ever known.
The future is here. Embrace it. I like my iPod as much as I like my vinyl collection. Because it is 2012.