FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter discussed 5 July’s historic, unanimous decision by the IFAB (International Football Association Board) to allow goal-line technology to be used in the game. Speaking to members of the international press, he also talked about additional assistant referees, his dramatic change in stance on technology and the need to maintain football’s human face.
How significant a day is this for football?
Today, 5 July 2012 is a historic day for international football and for the IFAB (International Football Association Board). We are in the 127th year of this organisation’s existence. It is their decision to bring technology into the game, but only goal-line technology. It’s a very modern decision to apply this to football. It is so important because the objective of football is to score goals. With the new techniques and the new tactics, it’s difficult to score goals, so it helps to use technology to help identify when a goal is scored. It’s a help to the referee. There was a call for this technology and now I can say that we did it.
It sounds like you are happy and pleased by the decision…
I am happy. I am pleased that we are able to go forward. When it comes to high-level competition, and the decisive moment of a competition, you have to use technology if it is available. If you don’t, then something is wrong. I have changed my attitude toward technology because of the situation in South Africa in 2010 (when England’s Frank Lampard scored against Germany, but the goal was not given).
This was the crucial moment for you?
Yes, I said to myself, ‘you are the President of FIFA and you cannot afford to let something like this to happen in the next World Cup.’ This is why we started, in the autumn of 2010, to test the technology. Now the time has come. The system is available, and the objective is to have it ready for Brazil 2014.
You once said: “football should not lose its human face.” Has it?
It’s not a dangerous development as long as it remains focused on goal-line technology. I don’t want technology anywhere else. I want football to maintain its human face, this will be my goal as long as I am the President of FIFA. We will still have to see how it works. It is only to help the referee, we must remember that.
You are 100 per cent sure that in the future, even if there is pressure, technology will focus only on goal-line decisions? Not, for example, on the offside rule?
Yes, only goal-line decisions. At any rate, it would be very difficult to use this technology with something like the offside rule.
How did you feel when you saw Frank Lampard’s goal not allowed in South Africa?
I was absolutely at a loss for words. I couldn’t even react. I was so shocked that the goal was not allowed. The next day, when I gathered myself, I made the declaration that we should start to consider the technology and look for a simple way to implement it.
What did you think when you saw a Ukraine goal disallowed at EURO 2012? Did that weaken the case for assistant referees, because they were there behind the goal and didn’t help make the call?
No. The error, which is made generally, is that the assistant referee (behind the goal) is a goal judge. It’s not the case. The human eye cannot follow the speed of the ball unless it is moving slowly. The human eye can’t follow a shot like that. It’s impossible. We don’t use additional referees as goal judges.
Some leagues and countries won’t be able to afford the technology. Is that a problem?
There are already multiple tiers in football. There are different layers. We are offering at the top level, in competitions where it is vital to know if a goal is scored or not, that we can assure a goal is scored. You can’t recover in a knockout system from a mistake.
The idea is to have it ready for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil?
It is my plan to have it used at Brazil 2014, yes. We will use the system also for the Confederations Cup and this year’s FIFA Club World Cup.