One thing rather remarkable at the UEFA Euro 2012 Championship hosted by Poland and Ukraine that no one is writing about is that, for the most part, the quality of refereeing at this premier tournament is excellent. Sure, there were some questionable refereeing decisions such as those that were made during the opener and which we wrote about but they did not negatively impact the game results. Unfortunately, like other major tournaments including FIFA World Cup, the one thing that the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament could not escape — and very much to the head of UEFA Michel Platini’s chagrin — was the goal line technology controversy.
The controversy was sparked by the incident that arose during the Euro 2012 Group D match between England and Ukraine in Donetsk. In the 62nd minute of the match, while the game score was 1-0 for England, Ukraine was beginning to dominate the game. At that point, after Ukraine’s striker Marko Devic shot was saved by England’s goalkeeper Joe Hart, the ricocheted ball flew over Joe Hart and towards the goal. England’s defender John Terry appeared to have acrobatically kicked the ball out of the goal. But the replays indicated that Terry cleared the ball after it already crossed the goal line. Even though the additional assistant referee was perfectly positioned to see the entire incident, he did not indicate to the Referee that the goal was scored and Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai waived off Ukrainian player’s pleas and let the game continue. After the game, the UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer Pierluigi Collina said that “the ball crossed the line. That was unfortunate. It would have been better not to have it.” Collina did try to explain away the incident by stating that “this is the only problem we had” but unfortunately this “problem” was huge as it denied Ukraine a game tying goal. With nearly 30 minutes left and the game momentum shifting in Ukraine’s favor anything could have happened. And that is the problem; that is, instead of letting the game result speak for itself we are now left speculating about what could have, should have or might have been.
FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter tweeted after the game that “after last night’s match #GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity.” While Blatter was initially opposed to the goal line technology, over several years and number of incidents where referees failed to award clearly scored goals, he changed his mind and embraced the idea. This puts him at odds with UEFA and Michel Platini in particular who publically expressed his opposition to the goal line technology. Indeed, Platini championed the use of the additional assistant referees as a sort of panacea against these kinds errors. This example, and there were others before, indicate that the additional assistant referees are not the solution. Indeed, given the speed of today’s game and that whether the ball crossed the goal line happen with a split second, it probably is unfair to expect them to be flawless.
But that is why Blatter got it right when he said that the goal line technology is a “necessity.” Like Blatter, Platini should reconsider his opposition to the technology. We wrote before that we supported the goal line technology. While we have some reservations about it, we believe that the technology can be implemented without negatively impacting the game, its character or changing its rhythm.