Fifa rejects technology in football

Governing body says it will continue to rely on referees to get decisions right unaided.

    Henry's handball against Ireland caused a storm of protest [AFP]

    Football's world governing body Fifa has ruled out introducing goal-line and video technology to reduce mistakes by referees in matches.

    Officials have come under increasing pressure to get decisions right, with endless replays from multiple angles giving viewers unlimited opportunity to criticise their actions.

    But on Saturday, Fifa moved to end the debate over giving referees and linesmen the same sort of help afforded to their peers in cricket and rugby.

    "A decision was made not to go with with technology," general secretary Jerome Valcke said after a meeting of the International Football Association (Ifab) board on Saturday.

    "It's an end to the potential use of technology within football."

    Henry handball

    Of the long list of controversial decisions that sparked the debate, the most high-profile in recent times was a clear handball by France striker Thierry Henry during the build-up to the goal which earned his team a place at the World Cup at the expense of Ireland.

    The Ifab made the decision after watching presentations of two systems – Cairos, which uses a chip inserted in ball, and Hawkeye, currently used in tennis and cricket.

    "It was put on ice two years ago and now a decision was made to stop it," said Valcke.

    Ifab had frozen all investigations into such technology at its annual meeting two years ago, but it was put back on the agenda for this year's meeting.

    Valcke said that Fifa intended no to mean no.

    "Now it's a decision not to keep on ice, but to just stop it," he said.

    Incidents such as the one involving Henry, if missed by the referee, could only realistically be solved with an appeal by the defending team and a video review by the fourth referee – holding up matches.

    It has been argued that the lack of natural breaks in football would make that problematic, whereas it has slotted in fairly seamlessly in cricket, rugby and tennis.

    Goal-line technology was mooted to be the solution in deciding whether a ball had crossed the line in awarding a strike.

    Fifa are experimenting with an extra official stationed behind the net in the Europa League.

    Goal disallowed

    A matter of minutes after the Ifab decision was announced on Saturday, English Premier League club Birmingham City had a goal disallowed in their FA Cup game against Portsmouth when replays showed the ball had crossed the line.

    Valcke said the Ifab had decided to postpone a decision on a greater role for the fourth official and on whether to introduce two extra linesmen.

    Both proposals will now be discussed at an extraordinary meeting in May, he said.

    Founded in 1886 and seen as the guardian of the rules of the game, the Ifab is composed of the representatives from the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each having one vote.

    Fifa has four votes and a 75 percent majority is needed for any proposal to be passed.

    Jonathan Ford, chief executive of the Welsh FA, said that debates such as England's third goal in their 4-2 win over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final were part of the game.

    "The human element of the game is a critical component of it," he said.

    "It's the thing ultimately we end up debating. That's the beauty of the game and it's what keeps people talking in the pubs afterwards."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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