Yes to goal-line technology in AFL, but how will it work?

Ben Somerford Roar Guru

By , 13 Oct 2011

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    AFL 2011 Media - AFL Media Conference

    AFL General Manager of Football Operations, Adrian Anderson, addresses the media during an AFL media conference, to detail the results of the competition's Illicit Drugs Policy, at AFL House in Melbourne.

    It’s funny to think this is what it takes, but finally after two incidents in the past four Grand Finals where a goal has been incorrectly awarded after the ball glanced off the post, the AFL are seriously investigating goal-line technology. Well, at least that’s what they’re telling us.

    Fresh in the memory for most AFL fans was Collingwood onballer Sharrod Wellingham’s ghost goal in the third quarter of the 2011 Grand Final when the ball clearly hit the post on its way through.

    However, what’s easily forgotten is a similar incident occurred two years ago, in the 2009 Grand Final, when Geelong’s Tom Hawkins booted a major which on second glance clearly hit the post. The goal was awarded and eventually the Cats got up narrowly, with a goal kicked after the siren sealing a 12-point victory.

    Such tight decisions can clearly affect the way a game pans out and its eventual result. In Grand Finals, the result at stake is alot more than just another four points.

    So in the wake of the ‘Wellingham ghost goal’ and as part of the AFL’s annual rules review, Chairman of the Laws Committee chairman Adrian Anderson wrote to all 18 clubs on Tuesday outlining the latest topics discussed at the organisation’s meeting on Monday, which also saw the controversial substitute and advantage rules confirmed for 2012.

    It was also revealed the use of video technology to aid goal umpires had been discussed and would be a hot topic at another meeting in November. Whether anything comes from it, we’ll have to wait and see.

    However, AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan made some interesting comments on Tuesday, when he said: “It (technology) has to be implemented.

    “If Geelong lost the Grand Final by less than a kick there’d be serious and legitimate outrage from Geelong supporters when everyone knew within seconds it had hit the post.

    “I do believe we have to use technology. It’s a question of how you do it without potentially creating more problems. Sometimes you’re not able to pick it up and we don’t want to delay the game.

    “My personal view is you should be using technology as long as it doesn’t slow down the game.”

    McLachlan makes a good point.

    And while many will argue umpires make mistakes all the time so why single out goal-line decisions, the obvious rebuttal is if it can be cleared up definitively within seconds while the game naturally stops (as it does when a score is registered) then it makes alot of sense to do so.

    The burning issue then is how to find a system whereby such decisions don’t interrupt the game greatly.

    We know how important zones are in the AFL these days, and a quick kick-out from a behind can be crucial to be breaking down one. That’s an vital point, whereby technology wouldn’t affect the integrity of the contest.

    Then there’s also the other point for the spectator, whereby consulting the replay could take too long and make a game of footy even longer. The length of your average game of AFL footy is something which I think often gets overlooked. Few other sports worldwide take almost three hours.

    Both are aforementioned issues which need to be addressed when finding a solution.

    Perhaps teams get a set number of appeals they can use per match, as Matthew Scarlett would’ve loved to have done after Wellingham’s goal when the umpire seemed oblivious to his argument.

    Maybe such a system is open to abuse, as clubs could potentially use it to stem momentum.

    But then there’s other issues about how smoothly the operation of video review would work and how quickly it could take place.

    Indeed, currently there’s no clear system being discussed which would ensure the introduction of video technology would be unobtrusive and not affect the integrity of the game.

    And as the topic isn’t a burning issue in the game right now, I doubt much will happen at that November meeting.

    Then again, if there was ever a time to really look into a solution, now is it, after two Grand Final incidents in the past three years.

    Indeed, the discussion to be had about video technology isn’t about whether it needs to be introduced, but when it is eventually introduced, how it’ll work without affecting the integrity of the contest and without lengthening the game even more.

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