Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go again

Like most technological and cultural trends, I’m somewhat late to the blog party. But this week I sailed my maiden voyage as a blogger.

It felt good. It felt good to get things off my chest about England’s dejected world cup ejection. Did I move any arguments on? No. Of course not.

That wasn’t the point. In joining the cacophony of caterwauling about the anti-climax that was England’s World Cup, I merely added to the phalanx of comment on the subject.

When my partner asked if my blog would only be about football I said no. And so it was going to be, until I read further blather from Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter, the preposterously resilient FIFA president. Forced into an embarassing mea culpa on Frank Lampard's disallowed goal, Blatter is quoted as saying that, on the subject of goal-line technology: "We will naturally take on board the discussion [on technology] and have the first opportunity in July at the [FIFA] business meeting." That sounds to me like nothing more than a crumb. Master politics from a master politician.

The argument for technology "to assist referees" has bounced around like a ball going in off the crossbar for too long now. In 1966 at Wembley, when apparently the world was coloured black and white, a Russian linesman gave Geoff Hurst a goal when a ball just about went over the German goal line. On Sunday, Frank Lampard's ball didn't just cross the line, it passed through the line and set up camp a full yard inside the German goal. Indeed, I'm surprised the ball didn't need FIFA accreditation to get that far into the ground.

The technology exists: various companies have offered solutions, from RFID chips in the ball to cameras more powerful than those that read your number plate and tell you what you've had for breakfast. Tennis has embraced it. As have the rugby codes. But not football. Not the world's most popular sport. Not, in the World Cup, the world's most viewed event. An event that has generated over $1.6 billion in sponsorship revenue for FIFA in the four years since 2007. An event that will generate almost $3.5 billion in advertising revenue. With such sums sloshing about, FIFA has a duty to all concerned in the game to ensure it is not only professionally financed, but professionally administered.

Refereeing at this World Cup has been a joke, with the inconsistency of decisions merely the warm-up act to the top billing of comedic calamity like that experienced by Mexico and England - decisions Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles would have laughed in unison at for their shere ineptitude. I'm not laughing.

On the FIFA website, Blatter has admitted to personally apologising "for what happened" to England and Mexico, who both suffered from refereeing blunders. Even so, Blatter and his cohorts have repeatedly dismissed the idea of technology to prevent such errors. There has even been suggestion that human error was part of the fun of football.

It's not. It makes a mockery of the whole point of football: unlike American baseball, in which, much like an episode of Seinfeld, when nothing happens it is considered a stroke of tactical genius, football is about scoring goals. For those who haven't cottoned on, one team wins by putting the ball over the line more often than the opposition. It's not rocket science. But apparently it now requires rocket science to prove something that basic has happened.

"Still," Blatter snorts, "it’s not the end of the competition, it’s not the end of football." No, it's not the end of football. No, it's not the end of the World Cup either. Most right-minded observers would agree that England were probably not good enough to go past Germany and, even with the score at 2-2, they would have been unlikely to gain any advantage, in normal time, in added time or in the dreaded penalties.

But it is important. It does matter. To bring up Bill Shankly's oft-misquoted and oft-used statement: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." And it is.

1 comment:

  1. Well said -- except the baseball part. As a former pitcher (aka bowler), a lot of hard work went into making sure nothing happened :). Which usually results in a boring game.

    Blog is great. Can't wait to read more.