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Germans still drawing the line on technology

Half of the Bundesliga teams voted in favour of goal-line technology but the authorities refused to adapt it.

Last updated: 26 Mar 2014 14:24
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It will be the Germany-based innovation GoalControl will be used at Brazil 2014 [GALLO/GETTY]

Were you as surprised as I was that the top clubs in Germany voted against goal-line technology earlier this week?

I'm trying to settle on why I expected a 'ja, bitte'.

The starting point has to be that German club football has enjoyed such a good reputation in recent years that you might have expected them to be trailblazers off the pitch. Instead, emphatically it's the Premier League and English FA.

There's the teutonic reputation for doing things first and efficiently. German companies have been right in the mix for developing the technology and the Germany-based innovation GoalControl will be used at Brazil 2014.

The German national team famously benefitted from an awful decision when Frank Lampard was denied in the 2010 World Cup that it swayed Sepp Blatter to finally give in to technology. But historically, they have suggered more: Geoff Hurst's second goal in the 1966 final being disputed to this day.

But the main reason I felt they would bring in the technology has been events in the Bundesliga this season. More than one goal-line incident has felt like the catalyst for change though the biggest incident wasn't technically about the goal-line.

Bayer Leverkusen's Steffan Kiessling was awarded a goal against Hoffenheim in October... after the ball went through the side netting. It was a stunning error. The calls for video technology were loud for days after that, so loud I thought they would still be reverberating now.

Instead, only 12 of the 36 voting clubs in Germany opted for technology, way short of the two thirds that would have brought a change. Bayern Munich and their coach Pep Guardiola were open with their backing, one of the nine Bundesliga clubs who want it introduced. That makes it half the sides in the league. That is the most telling statistic.

Not a priority

Germany is not anti-technology, it's simply reluctant to make it a priority. The feeling is that other football matters are simply more important to them right now. Goal-line technology has been one of the star performers in the English Premier League this season. While Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Eden Hazard and Yaya Toure have been rightly lauded for their contributions, praise for GLT has been measured.

But respect must be given to the Premier League, and the FA, for their determination in driving this. They've been proven correct. I was one of those leaning towards sceptical about technology because GLT would solve only one problem. I came around to the view that it's better to solve one problem and open the doors to more technology than having nothing at all.

And the moment that the Premier League and Hawk-Eye can be proud of came this month when Fulham played Newcastle. Both teams had failed to score when Fulham defender scored a certain goal off the underside of the bar. Or did he? The pundits had typically rushed to the wrong conclusion and criticised the officials and technology for disallowing the goal.

Then we saw the replay. Nearly all of the ball was over the line. Nearly. A tiny fraction was touching the line. NO GOAL. Impressive. Could have been the difference between promotion, relegation and millions of pounds.

Need more eyes?

Meanwhile, Arsenal are at the centre of calls for the floodgates to open, for more technology to be brought in as well as video replays. The wrong man being sent off in the defeat against Chelsea was so bizarre - and embarrassing for the officials - that it incredibly overshadowed the 6-0 humiliation in Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game in charge.

As usual everyone rushed to conclusions, many of them incorrect.

Why did Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain not tell the referee it was him who handled the ball and not Kieran Gibbs? A replay showed he did.

Why did the ref not listen? He did.

But taking advice or instruction from a player is not a straightforward matter. Ox should definitely have been sent off. No he shouldn't. The ball was going wide when he handled so he should've stayed on the pitch for legitimate reasons after all.

What was abundantly clear is that it was an excruciating incident for referee Andre Marriner and the officials, where eyesight, common sense and communication took a day off.

A Uefa spokesman was quick to seize on this mistake, pointing out on Twitter that, "with an additional assistant referee on the end line, referee would not have got that sending off wrong. Technology is not the answer. More eyeballs are the answer".

As long as those eyeballs didn't belong to the UEFA match officials who didn't allow Marko Devic a vital, legitimate goal for Ukraine against England in Euro 2012, spoiling a lot of good progress with their 'five officials' approach. Human error will always happen, that's life.

How NFL has got it right

I can't help but think of American football. They've got it right. They know what they are, what they have to do and what compromise they need to make to get the product right. So expect the ever-bold Premier League to push for more technology.

Will they succeed and change football further? Not in a hurry. IFAB, football's rule makers, are more of a calm old-school sweeper than a headless chicken winger. If it's right, if it's acceptable, they will have given it lengthy consideration because turning back isn't an option.

This column also appears on the Insideworldfootball.com website where Lee Wellings represents Al Jazeera.

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Al Jazeera
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