The naivety of Stuart Pearce

Sometimes coaches can get carried away with themselves.

How many times do coaches say in the post match press conference that they did not see a controversial incident which favoured their team while having perfect vision to see another incident the same distance away which went against their team?

Pearce’s comments before the opening Team GB match against Senegal do not fall into that category.

He believes that the presence of Team GB in the Olympics ‘can happen more often and say to the public that this is a valid tournament.’

In this unique situation, Team GB qualifies for the Olympic Football Tournament because London is the host city. Every other team in the competition has had to qualify through their confederation’s qualification competitions.

How could a Team GB ever qualify for the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro when there is no such thing as a GB Team to take part in the UEFA qualification matches.

England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales participate in the UEFA Under-21 Championship, which is the qualifying tournament for the Olympics every four years, as separate nations.

A team GB can never qualify, since neither England, Scotland, Northern Ireland nor Wales are members of the Olympic movement.

Pearce, whose own position in the new FA coaching hierarchy is in doubt, should accept that the London Olympics is a one off situation.

There will be no legacy from the Team GB involvement in London.

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Is it time to think outside the box?

I have followed the discussions on goal line technology with great interest.

I welcome the recent approval by the International FA Board of goal line technology although I have serious reservations about the UEFA sponsored additional assistant system.

I was involved in preparing the revised version of the Laws of the Game in 1997 and am very aware that the Laws of the Game must be both conservative, recognising that changes must be applied worldwide, but also dynamic, taking into account the modern situation in football.

This was done with the pass to the goalkeeper, the tackle from behind and with denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

Television has changed football.

There would have been no debate today about whether the ball had crossed the goal line for the controversial English goal in the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany.

The all seeing eye of the television camera and the slow motion television replays would have given an answer in seconds – and so avoided more than 45 years of controversy!

Decision making about whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line is very difficult for match officials according to the present Law.

Perhaps we should think outside the box and change the Laws to award a goal when part of the ball crosses the goal line and not the whole ball.

I believe there is great value in considering this change to the Laws of the Game which considers the ball to be out of play when part of it, not the whole ball, has passed over a boundary line.

This would mean that a throw in would be awarded when part of the ball passes over the touch line and a goal kick or corner kick would be awarded when part of the ball passes over the goal line. A penalty kick would also be awarded if the offence occurred inside the penalty area and not on the penalty area line.

The controversial decision in the 2002 FIFA World Cup to disallow the goal for Spain v Korea would be a non event since part of the ball had passed over the goal line and so according to the new Law, the ball was out of play and goal kick would be awarded.

The main advantage of this change would be that a goal would be awarded if any part of the ball crosses the goal line, not the whole ball as at present and this would be easier for the match officials to recognise.

I realise that, politically, it may not be the best time to introduce this change, but goal line technology is only for the very rich.

It is meaningless to 99.99% of the game

This change in definition would benefit all levels of the game and is worthy of consideration.

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The recent decision by the International FA Board to allow goal line technology to be used is a momentous decision for world football – or at least .01% of world football.

Goal line technology, at a cost of up to $400,000 per installation, is only for the rich leagues and competitions.

Worldwide football on the public parks will gain no benefit.

The controversy of whether a ball did or did not cross the goal line will be determined by technology in only a few cases.

Everyone else can argue about it afterwards in the café or in the pub.

That is football.

Long may these football controversies continue!

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Big decisions in Zurich

Today at a special meeting in Zurich, the International FA Board agreed to the use of goal line technology.

It is a major change for the top levels of the game and two companies, Hawkeye and GoalRef, have met the initial criteria.

Both will be tested in the FIFA World Club Championship in Japan in December this year.

The decision is predictable but, at a cost of $250,000 per system, only the richest leagues or competitions will be able to afford it.

It will be available to the referee only to indicate whether a ball has crossed the goal line and will not be used for any other decisions such as offside or penalty kicks.

Also approved was the UEFA backed system of additional assistant referees on the goal line. The weaknesses in this system were shown when Ukraine was denied a goal when the ball crossed the line in the match against England but the additional assistant did not signal for a goal.

The UEFA system is more than just indicating whether or not the ball has gone into goal. It also gives the additional assistant the authority to communicate with the referee and inform him of incidents inside the penalty area.

This system will mostly be used at the top level in Europe and there seems little great enthusiasm for its introduction but it was the brainchild of Michel Platini the UEFA President who is against technology and wants to keep the human element in decision making.

It is unlikely that FIFA will use the system in the forthcoming FIFA World Club Championship, the Confederations Cup or the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It will concentrate on goal line technology.

Finally the IFAB did make a decision which will affect grassroots football when it allowed the wearing of headscarves by women players.

This is a major step forward for women’s football, especially in many parts of Asia.

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Scottish football in crisis

Scottish football has some major problems to face in the next few days.

First of all, after a 5-1 drubbing by USA, the national team has slumped to 49th in the FIFA rankings.

National coach Craig Levein has had a fairy easy ride from the media so far but as the World cup Qualifiers loom ahead, he will be expected to deliver results.

However the biggest problem is at club level.

Glasgow Rangers, founded in 1872 is one of the oldest clubs in world football but because a lack of financial prudence and risky fiscal practices over more than a decade, it is now in liquidation and will have to re-apply for membership of both the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League.

They will succeed with their application to join the SFA but will not be accepted by the SPL who have memories of being bullied by Rangers in the past and of Rangers winning titles with, as events have proved, players they could not afford.

There is strong opposition to Rangers from opposing supporters who have threatened to boycott their clubs’ matches if the club votes for Rangers and there is no doubt that Rangers must be severely punished, but there is also the financial reality that in the long term, Scottish football needs Rangers.

A suggestion by the SPL that Rangers should drop a division to the Scottish Football League has been opposed by a large number of SFL clubs, many of whom are demanding that Rangers should enter the SFL in the Third Division.

Some even question if Rangers should be admitted to the SFL at all.

It is getting rather messy but the harsh reality is that sporting integrity is one thing but the survival of these smaller clubs is in danger if they do not swallow their pride and recognise that they need Rangers.

Supporters can make loud protest noises against Rangers but the club directors in the SFL clubs will be the ones who will have to dig deep into their own pockets if the money generated by the Sky and ESPN contracts disappears along with the subsidy payments from the SPL.

Could an SPL 2 be formed which many of the clubs presently opposed to Rangers would be desperate to join – and play against them next season under the SPL 2 banner?

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Great Britain do not normally take part in the Olympic Football Tournament since there is no Great Britain team and all four UK countries take part in UEFA and FIFA competitions as separate member associations.

England won the FIFA World Cup in 1966, Scottish Champions Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 and in earlier times Northern Ireland and Wales have taken part in the final stages of the World Cup.

The national identity of the four British home associations has been sacrosanct.

The London Olympic Games have presented a different scenario.

As the host nation it is expected that there will be a Team GB in the Football Tournament but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fear that by taking part in a joint team this could compromise the future integrity of the four home associations.

This may or not be the case.

I believe the special circumstances of a one off team taking part in the London Olympics would not endanger the status of the four home associations but some disagree.

What is beyond doubt, however, is that football is the only sport in the Olympic Games which does not regard an Olympic gold medal as the pinnacle of achievement.

Winning the FIFA World Cup is the top prize in football.

There has been controversy in UK in the past few days about the composition of the GB Team. David Beckham, a very influential supporter of the Games Bid, has been omitted by coach Stuart Pearce.

It is also reported that there will be no Scottish or Northern Irish players in the squad, although two of the overage players will be Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy of Wales.

The Olympic Football Tournament is different things to different countries. To Spain, Brazil and Argentina it is a well trodden training ground for potential World Cup players.

For Team GB in London 2012 it is a one off hybrid tournament with no long term
legacy.

Football is the only Olympic sport with over 1 million unsold tickets.

Maybe Beckham would have added the necessary marketing and glamour required by a GB Team which has so far failed to capture the UK public’s imagination.

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The International FA Board gets it wrong

The International FA Board, founded in 1886, is the oldest international body in world football.

Over the past 126years, it has been a wonderful servant to football fulfilling its role as the guardian of the Laws of the Game which are accepted worldwide.

The recent changes to the Laws of the Game, approved at the IFAB Meeting in March 2012 are not major.

The colour of tape on players’ stockings is hardly going to change the face of world football, neither is the position of advertising boards around the field of play.

The IFAB, however, has a made an error by introducing a change to Law 8 – The Start and Restart of Play.

The proposal by the Football Association to disallow a goal scored when a ball is kicked directly into an opponent’s goal at a restart from an uncontested dropped ball , was seen as a way of overcoming the unusual situation of a goal being scored from this restart.

This law change is basically flawed according to the Laws of the Game since Law 8 states that play restarts when the ball touches the ground.

How then can the IFAB approve a law change which does not allow a goal to be scored when the ball is in play?

What is meant by kicking a ball directly into an opponents’ goal. If the kicker takes two kicks of the ball before kicking it into the goal is that allowed?

It is an unsound change and should never have been passed by the IFAB.

The composition of the IFAB is under pressure from reviews being taken at present by FIFA.

To justify its position in world football it must not only be the guardian of the Laws of the Game, it must also be accurate in its decisions.

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It had to happen.

A EURO 2012 goal/no goal controversy in the match between the co-hosts Ukraine and England.

The ball was cleared by English defender John Terry but it had fully crossed the goal line and a goal should have been awarded by the referee, Viktor Kassai of Hungary on the advice of his additional assistant referee.

The fact that a Ukrainian player may have been offside in the build up to the goal merely complicates the matter.

The additional assistant experiment , approved by the International FA Board, but essentially driven by UEFA and its President Michel Platini has been shown to be flawed.

UEFA referees, according to unofficial reports, do not favour the additional assistant experiment, but how many are going to tell President Platini that his idea, which to be fair to him, he has promoted for over a decade, does not work?

Similarly UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer Pierluigi Collina and his colleagues are not going to publicly oppose Platini.

Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, has stated clearly that this incident merely emphasises that goal line technology is essential but he only reverted to this position after England had an obvious goal disallowed in the match with Germany in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

There is a political side to this argument.

FIFA now wants to introduce goal line technology and seems to have two proven systems, the English Hawkeye System and GoalRef, a Danish/German system.

Platini and UEFA are totally against goal line technology and favour additional assistants.

The IFAB meets in Zurich on 5th July to make a final decision and probably both systems will be approved.

However both systems have limited viability throughout world football because of the costs involved but they can be installed for a major competition.

After the Ukraine v England decision, Blatter seems to have the upper hand and it is very unlikely that 24 or so teams of five officials will make the trip to Brazil in 2014.

Hawkeye and/or GoalRef, however, might be on the team sheet!

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Go ahead for goal line technology

The 2012 Annual General Meeting of the International FA Board in England on 3rd March has brought the introduction of goal line technology much nearer.

Two systems have been approved to move to the next stage of testing while another six have failed to meet the strict criteria set by the IFAB.

The two systems work on different principles. GoalRef, developed in Germany uses a magnetic field with a special ball to identify goal situations while the English Hawkeye system uses cameras.

The previous front runner, the Cairos/adidas chip in ball system, did not pass the first stage.

Stage two testing will take place between now and June and a final decision will be made in early July.

If a suitable system is approved it will be used in the 2014 FIFA world Cup in Brazil.

A decision will also be taken in June about the additional assistant experiment supported by UEFA President Michel Platini. From the comments made by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, recently, it is unlikely that the system will appear in Brazil, although it may continue in UEFA competitions.

If both systems pass the stage two test, it seems likely that the Hawkeye system would be introduced in the Premier League, probably in season 2013-14.

There could be some problems, however, in UEFA competitions if different systems are used in different countries or if some of the competing teams do not have a system installed at all.

The systems must be regularly calibrated to ensure complete accuracy and the expense of installation will limit their use for many clubs and competitions.

Most important for UEFA competitions, however, is the fact that its President is strongly opposed to the idea of using any form of goal line technology

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A dangerous line to follow

In my time at FIFA and at the Scottish FA I have attended 16 Annual General Meetings of the International FA Board as well as Business Meetings and meetings of the Technical Sub-Committee.

I therefore take a keen interest in what is being discussed at the law making body of world football.

The Agenda for the 126th Annual General Meeting has its usual mixture of major and minor proposals, often promoted by members of the Board who are only acting as a vehicle for other interest groups whether or not they agree and indeed will support the proposals when it comes to the vote.

It is not unusual for a member of the Board to propose a certain amendment and say at the same time that it does not expect the amendment to be approved and indeed would be happy if it was rejected.

The Board member can therefore say to its constituent that it did raise a certain matter but it was rejected by the other ‘bad guys’.

I believe, and hope, the proposal of the Football Association to propose modifications to the Notes on the Laws of the Game – Modifications fits into this category.

Basically it proposes to allow modifications to the substitution procedures in all football except ‘the most senior domestic competition of a member association’.

Does this phrase mean the national cup is more important than the national league or vice versa? Which one would the modification apply to?

By my reading of the text, in any but the top national competition, this could allow any number of substitutions as well as rolling substitutes when players could be substituted and then return to the field of play later in the match.

If this proposal were to be accepted it could alter the whole concept of football worldwide regarding substitutions.

It could cause chaos and should be strongly resisted by the other members of the IFAB

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