Goal or not a goal – that is the question

January 1, 2000

It seems to me that no season goes by, indeed any start to a season goes by, without a controversial refereeing decision or three being the topic of a good deal of discussion and disagreement. Take last Saturday at Oxford for example; the tackle on Cams was high and horrible in rny view. Rover’s fans were shouting for a straight red whilst the Oxford fans around me were calling for a dive. In the event the Ref decided on a yellow.

There have been other decisions that have perhaps not gone Rovers way this season, like the two penalty awards at Bradford City, especially the second one deep into added time. However, the biggest shout for me so far was the disallowed ‘goal’ up at Morecambe. I think that all travelling Gas, and most home fans, would have allowed Scott McCleish’s strike to stand.

These are the decisions that really ignite the questions regarding the use of so called goal line technology; was it a goal or not. In Scott’s case it was not the question of the ball having crossed the line or not but one of an infringement albeit by another player a split second or so beforehand. So where are we with the introduction of technology then? The argument seems to rumble on and on with no clear indication of the eventual outcome.

Posted on footballreferee.org on October 8th I found this:

UEFA referees committee member Pierluigi Collina insists there is no need for goal line technology in football and defended the use of two additional assistant referees.

Collina, widely regarded as the game’s best official until his retirement six years ago, claims there has not been one incorrect goal line decision in games using additional assistants since experiments involving them began two years ago. The additional officials are the brainchild of UEFA president Michel Platini, who has been an opponent of technology even though the International Football Association Board are continuing with experiments aimed at its introduction.

Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference in London during the first week of the month, Collina said: “The technological experiment didn’t find the solution and the human found the solution.” I see, so what human is that then Pierluigi?

“I think the goal line can be easily controlled by two additional assistant referees.”

Additional assistants, who stand behind the goal line, have been criticised in some quarters for failing to spot other incidents inside the penalty area.

Collina admitted mistakes had been made, but by referees who had actually ignored the advice of their assistants.

He said: “We had big mistakes last year, not because the assistant referee didn’t help the referee.”

Some sort of logic there, I’m not sure what, to be honest, but the question is not about the ‘who helps who or not’ but surely ‘was it a goal or not!’ And he goes on:

“The number of pushing and pulling at set pieces decreased during the last couple of seasons, probably because of the presence of the additional assistant referee.” Oh really Collina, I can’t say I agree with you, particularly when there was no pushing and pulling in Scott’s case, we think, and what seemed to be a perfectly good goal was disallowed. And anyway how is it possible to argue with goal line technology when you recall Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany in South Africa.

On the same web page Football Association referees’ committee chairman David Elleray, himself a former top official, backed the use of technology for goal line incidents, but insisted it was unworkable beyond that.

Rejecting the idea each team could be allowed to challenge a certain number of decisions during a game, as in Test Cricket and American Football, he used the example of Theirry Henry’s handball that set up a decisive goal for France in their World Cup play off against Ireland two years ago.

He said “How would football have looked and reacted in Paris when Thierry Henry handled the ball and France scored to go to the World Cup and Ireland couldn’t appeal against that because they had already used up their three appeals?” Well we agree, football would have looked pretty silly David but does it not look silly anyway? Furthermore we are not talking about a number of appeals but the use of technology when it comes to all dubious goal or no goal decisions.

There was no real argument about whether France’s winning goal was a result of a handball by Henry; he admitted it afterwards so that put paid to that aspect of the controversy. Many others were canvassed for their opinion at the time including footballing legend Pele.. A formal complaint was lodged with FIFA by the Football Association of Ireland who called for the match to be replayed.

FIFA refused to be swayed, however, and France headed off to France where their performance was mediocre, getting dumped out of the competition in the first round. The Irish players and fans watching must surely have felt that they would have done better had they have been granted the opportunity.

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