Blatter to consider technology

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JOHANNESBURG - The furore over refereeing mistakes at the World Cup forced FIFA president Sepp Blatter into an about-turn on Tuesday, reopening the debate on the use of goalline technology.

The 74-year-old Swiss president of world football's governing body, who apologised on Tuesday for the errors made by referees this week, has been a stubborn opponent of technology for years.

He effectively closed the door on further discussions about it three months ago at the annual meeting of football's law-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Although he has again ruled out using video replays to help officials with decisions, such as offsides, he said technology such as the Hawk-Eye system used in tennis and cricket should be re-examined to determine if the ball had crossed the line or not for a goal.

"It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to reopen the file on goalline technology," Blatter said at a briefing with selected media on Tuesday.

He was referring specifically to the incident in Sunday's England-Germany match at Bloemfontein when a shot from England midfielder Frank Lampard struck the bar and bounced down well over the line when England, chasing a comeback, were 2-1 down.

The goal was not given and Germany went on to win the second round match 4-1.

Although there was a second controversial incident later in the day when Argentina scored from an offside position against Mexico in a match they won 3-1, Blatter emphasised no technology would be debated relating to video evidence for offsides.

He said: "We will look again at technology, goalline technology, at the business meeting of the International Football Association Board in Cardiff, Wales in July.

"The only principle we are going to bring back for discussion is goalline technology. For situations like the Mexico game you don't need technology."

OPEN MIND

Paul Hawkins, whose Hawk-Eye Innovations company of Winchester, England, developed the system, was keeping an open mind about Blatter's comments.

Hawkins told Reuters: "Mr Blatter has said this before and there have been other changes of mind. All he said is that they will reopen the discussion, they haven't said they will change their minds.

"If they're serious about this then they'll contact us and we'll just wait to find out whether this is just a little statement to defuse the current public pressure.

"I have had my hopes dashed too many times in the past to get too excited, but obviously we think we can help make football a better game."

Only hours after Blatter spoke, World Cup referees said they would welcome technology if it made their jobs easier and helped the decision-making process.

"I am open-minded for anything that would make us more credible," referee Howard Webb told reporters after a World Cup referees' training session in Pretoria.

"Whatever tools I have I will use to the best of my abilities."

Blatter said that while FIFA would reconsider the goalline technology debate, he was not sure the Hawk-Eye system was 100 percent accurate.

He added that a chip-in-the ball system, the Smartball, developed by Cairos technologies through Adidas was "too complicated."

Blatter said: "The Hawk-Eye system is not 100 percent accurate because it can only reveal what the camera can see."

But Hawkins defended it, saying: "It is 100 percent accurate and has been independently tested by the (English) Premier League and IFAB and was shown to work in all instances tested."

APOLOGIES GIVEN

Blatter revealed he had said sorry to the England and Mexico camps for the refereeing errors.

"I have apologised to the two delegations and I understand they are not happy," he said. "The English delegation said 'Thank you', the Mexicans bowed their heads."

He added: "I deplore it when you see the evident referees' mistakes. They were not five-star games for referees."

Blatter has been opposed to the use of goalline technology or video replays for years and in March the International Board repeated its long-standing opposition to the idea.

After an experiment at the Under-17 World Cup in Peru in 2007 and other selected games, the idea of technology was put on hold indefinitely as FIFA decided none of it was 100 per cent accurate.

However, the outcry over the two incidents this week has caused Blatter to rethink, and he revealed new plans to improve officiating at matches, without going into detail.

"We will start with a new concept on how to improve match control. I cannot disclose it now because the dossier is still on the presidential table," he said.

"We are going forward and will announce something in October or November, because something needs to change."

The twin mistakes highlighted the fact soccer has become isolated, with other major international sports using video replays or infrared systems to decide close calls or track the ball.

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