Video tech takes centre stage in FIFA presidency battle

Video technology in football looks set to play a part in the new challenge to Sepp Blatter’s presidency of the sport’s world governing body, FIFA. Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation, is backing both “greater transparency” to end any accusations of corruption within the organisation and video technology to assist in referring decisions.

Blatter, who is due to retire as head of FIFA in four years, is implacably opposed to any form of goal line technology, a position that has put him at odds with individual national football associations. The English FA and Premier League both support the introduction of video or electronic systems to settle disputed decisions over goals and challenges that could result in penalties.

Many leading managers in England are also in favour of a more technological approach to refereeing. The latest to voice such an opinion was Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland, who recently saw a disputed penalty awarded to Liverpool in a game his team went on to lose 2-0.

John Mensah brought down Liverpool player Jay Spearing as he was approaching Sunderland’s goal. At first referee Kevin Friend awarded a free kick but changed the decision to a penalty after discussions with an assistant referee. Television replays showed that the incident occurred outside the box, which meant Friend had made the right judgement to begin with.

During a post-match interview with the BBC, Bruce conceded that Sunderland were “well and truly beaten” by Liverpool but said the turning point was the penalty. “The referee was 10 yards away and he called a free kick,” he commented. “He stands there for at least 20 seconds and then the linesman gives the decision from 80 yards. Maybe it’s technology we’re looking for.”

The introduction of video technology would call for changes to the Laws of the Games, which require the backing of FIFA. Both the FA and the Premier League have gone on record with SVG in saying they would continue to push for this and raise the topic with FIFA at every available opportunity.

If Mohamed Bin Hammam is successful in his challenge at elections in June then supporters of video replays could find an ally sooner than expected. He has shown his belief in modern technologies by saying, “I will support the goal line technology and the use of two assistants behind the goal posts.”

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