Regular readers of this blog will recall that we have discussed the issue of goal line decisions in two previous articles, posted on October 28, 2010, and May 18, 2011. We are now induced to revisit the subject due to an incident in the Bolton v. Queens Park Rangers match in the EPL yesterday.
This was a very critical match since both teams are facing the dire prospect of relegation and the consequent loss of millions of pounds in revenue should relegation occur.
In this match, as can be seen from the photo, QPR (red shirts) had the ball over the line legitimately for what should have been a goal. However no goal was given because neither the referee nor the AR was able to see and verify that the ball had indeed crossed the line. This was crucial incident since it directly affected the outcome of the match, which was won by Bolton 2-1. As expected, this incident has brought up the thorny concept of some sort of goal line technology to assist the match officials in incidents of this type, which was discussed at the most recent meeting of the IFAB earlier this month.
But is it really needed? Let's examine the particulars of this incident.
In UEFA competitions this season, and some others elsewhere around the world, an additional Assistant Referee is positioned on each goal line to help in situations like this. (See the blogs on October 28, 2010 and August 18, 2011 for our views on the AAR subject.) However he is positioned on the right side of the goal, (the same side as the AR) and so in all likelihood would also have had his view blocked by the players if they were in use in the EPL. Further more the AAR would also block the view of the AR !
We believe the answer to this dilemma is to encourage the referee to take up a position on the goal line for corner kicks as always was the case in previous years. This will allow him to have an excellent view of the goal line, and if he had been in that position in the Bolton/QPR match, I have no doubt that a goal would have been given. An additional benefit of this position is that the referee is close enough to observe and by his presence, have an inhibitory effect on, all the grabbing and shoving that routinely takes place at corner kicks these days.
And yes, we know that this position is considered "old school" in many quarters. We categorically dismiss such naive beliefs.
THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION TO GET RIGHT IN A SOCCER MATCH IS WHETHER OR NOT A GOAL HAS BEEN SCORED.
I have put this statement in all CAPS for emphasis, as I believe that this trumps all other considerations. We know that the concern with having the referee on the goal line is that he will be behind play if the ball is cleared out on a counter-attack. We challenge that claim with two points: 1) the counter attack is a low percentage event and 2) most top level referees are now fitter than ever, and should be able to sprint out that extra 18 yards a few times in a game without much difficulty.
How many more good goals will be missed before this is realized?