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Time to embrace technology

2009-11-19 20:42
London - Thierry Henry's handball that helped France reach the World Cup finals triggered fresh calls for referees to be given more help to get decisions right, either from video technology or extra officials.

FIFA has so far resisted pressure to allow officials to review tough-to-call incidents on video as happens in both codes of rugby, tennis and cricket.

Opponents of such moves argue that video evidence is often inconclusive and that the process of watching would interrupt the flow of the game.

But this season has seen the experimental introduction of two extra officials for matches in the Europa League. Stationed on goallines, the officials are intended to act as a 'human camera' helping referees spot fouls, diving and other misdemeanours in the penalty area.

The experiment has had mixed reviews from players and officials so far, but Alex McLeish, the former Scotland manager now in charge at Birmingham, believes the system would have ensured that Henry's handball would have been spotted on Wednesday evening.

"The extra official would have seen that given that the referee's assistant on the far side didn't really have a view of it and the referee was unsighted," McLeish argued.

Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, said Henry's use of his hand to control the ball before crossing for William Gallas to score in extra-time would go down as one of the most controversial incidents in football history.

"Surely it is time now for technology to come into it," Bruce said. "I can sympathise with the referee - even the television didn't pick it up until the replay - but it was obvious from the reaction of the Irish something untoward had happened.

"It took 15 seconds on the TV to establish it was blatant handball - and he didn't handball it once, but twice.

"It might be human error but we can change that with the technology we have got. That has got to be the way forward."

That view was backed by Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of England's Professional Footballers' Association.

"For a sport that is so high profile, with so much money and so much prestige at stake, video technology has to be used.

"You can bring in as many assistant referees behind the goals as you like but, until there is technology, there will continue to be debatable decisions.

"Rugby, tennis, cricket and American sports have all embraced technology and it can actually add to the excitement of a match. I think not to use it is burying one's head in sand."

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