Time for action over cameras

QPR manager Mark Hughes’ protests fell on deaf ears at the Reebok Stadium.

Clint Hill, a man who sounds like he should be performing at the Grand Ole Opry, was instead left singing the blues at the Reebok on Saturday when his valid goal for QPR against Bolton Wanderers was not allowed.

Ironically enough, the goal came after Joey Barton had initially been foiled by officialdom when attempting to steal an inch or two by taking a corner kick from just outside the quadrant. But it made no difference when the corner finally came in and was met with a meaty close-range header by Clint, which Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan was only able to claw back out of his goal, onto the underside of the bar, after the ball was already well over the line.

But, apparently unsighted, linesman Bob Pollack failed to allow the goal, instantly turning Hill’s joyful celebration to disbelieving rage.

If it’s any consolation to the veteran defender, his deflating experience has probably helped hasten the day when football finally accepts the appliance of science, though one has long since learned not to hold one’s breath where this unnecessarily vexatious subject is concerned.

It can sometimes seem as if the debate has been with us since the camera first captured movement which is why, even this late in the day, it was slightly startling that the FA only waited until half-time in Saturday’s game before rushing out a statement reiterating their commitment to the introduction of goal-line technology.

It wasn’t always thus in Blighty, and perhaps understandably so, since if the technology had been sufficiently advanced in 1966, England wouldn’t have been able to rely in part on the best guess of a Russian linesman to help them become champions of the world.

Almost half a century later, however, they learned that what goes around comes around, when Frank Lampard had his perfectly legitimate goal against Germany ruled out at the 2010 World Cup.

Maddeningly, the two men who are supposed to provide leadership at the very top of the world game still find themselves at loggerheads on the subject of goal-line technology. The Lampard fiasco in South Africa finally convinced FIFA’s Sepp Blatter to change his mind but UEFA’s Michel Platini remains resolutely opposed.

All of which is pretty academic as far as QPR are concerned, Hill’s bad case of goalus interruptus the early game-changer in a relegation battle which ultimately left them with a zero return from the proverbial six-pointer against one of their big rivals for the drop. Worse, it’s estimated that relegation could cost the club in the region of €35 million, although it would be a bit rich — not to put too fine a point on it — if the London Hoops were to heap all the blame for that outcome on a single

miscarriage of justice.

The furore surrounding the ‘goal that should have been’ has also overshadowed another striking feature of Saturday’s game at the Reebok — which is that Djibril Cisse was offside when he scored QPR’s equaliser in the 48th minute. In other words, this was a ‘goal that shouldn’t have been’.

And here’s the point: those who favour technology to adjudicate on the goal-line but recoil at the idea of using it for offside incidents need to explain the difference. After all, a goal is either a goal or it’s not. A goal where the ball has barely cleared the line is no less legitimate than one in which the ball hits the back of the net. And a goal which is scored from a marginally offside position, as Cisse’s was, is no less illegal than one scored from a position yards offside.

And for those who bleat on about video technology provoking prolonged stoppages in play, it’s worth noting that, on Saturday at the Reebok, it took exactly the same amount of time — a matter of just seconds — for the television cameras to confirm that Cisse’s goal was as illegal as Clint Hill’s was legit.

In short, sooner or later, football is not just going to have to make its stand on the line — it’s going to have to cross it.

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Saturday, February 27, 2021

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