Clint Hill’s recent “goal that never was” against Bolton Wanderers has reignited debate on one of football’s biggest talking points – goal-line technology. The twenty-first century has already seen a number of incidents that advocate the introduction of such technology in as much as it would have allowed the incidents to be avoided.
Cast your minds back to 2005. It is January 4 at Old Trafford and Pedro Mendes’ speculative effort from 50 yards – with the game goalless and in its penultimate minute – clearly crosses the line. United’s Roy Carroll claws the ball out of the net and play continues, to the disbelief of Tottenham’s players and almost everyone watching. Everyone except the officials, that is. Referee Mark Clattenburg and assistant Rob Lewis are too far behind the play to be sure the ball crossed the line – understandable considering Mendes had shot from just past the half-way line.
Spurs were robbed of two points and Mendes of what he later described as “a superb goal”. Ex-referees chief Keith Hackett was at Old Trafford that night and claimed he “felt sick about what happened”. Hackett was then inspired to advocate the introduction of goal-line technology, but he has still not achieved this aim.
This, although a freak incident, is not the only example of the human eye failing to detect a goal. 15 August 2009 saw another phantom goal, but in very different circumstances. Neil Warnock’s CrystalPalace are playing Bristol City when Freddie Sears’ close-range effort hits the back of the net andflies out again. City goalkeeper Dean Gerken kneels on the ground in dismay, while Sears wheels away in delight. However, the shot was in and out of the net so quickly, referee Rob Shoebridge is unable to detect a goal and to add to Palace’s outrage, City snatch a late winner and run out 1-0 victors.
Predictably, emotions ran high, with the controversial Warnock saying “We can put a man on the moon, time serves of 100 miles per hour at Wimbledon, yet we cannot place a couple of sensors in a net to show when a goal has been scored”. Although his actions immediately after the incident – including making goggles with his hands in front of one of Shoebridge’s assistants – were over-the-top, he had a point. Many other sports use similar technology to great effect.
Showing their reluctance to answer fans, FIFA attempted to diffuse the situation by giving them an alternative solution, responding with the introduction of two extra officials in the 2009-10 Europa League to aid with deciding goals and penalties. While this helped to some extent, the problem was not fully solved – no matter how many assistants are watching play, there are always going to be incidents that evade them. That is why FIFA is behind the times and that is why goal-line technology is needed.
It should also be noted that not all incidents are unavoidable mistakes by referees. Take Paddy Connolly’s thumping effort from a corner for Dundee United against Partick Thistle in 1993. Dundee celebrate, a Thistle defender picks the ball up and hands it to his goalkeeper – but the ref waves play on. An honest mistake, but a ridiculous one.
Clint Hill’s disallowed goal for QPR on Saturday follows Frank Lampard’s lob against Germany at the 2010 World Cup. With England 2-1 down, Lampard’s shot clearly crossed the line, but as with Pedro Mendes, he suffered the agony of having a legitimate goal disallowed by unsure officials. England went on to lose 4-1, but had Lampard’s goal been allowed, the game could have had a different outcome.
Hill himself highlighted the agony of having a fair goal taken away when he lamented “That would have been my first Premier League goal, and I feel robbed. You try all your career for a moment like that, and I knew straight away it was in”. At 33, and with QPR battling relegation, Hill may never score in the top flight again. Although the officials are unable to avoid such incidents as they have to be sure to award a goal, it is scenarios such as these – and there are many more I could have mentioned – that make the decision to introduce goal-line technology a no-brainer.