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The replays debate

Skysports.com's Peter O'Rourke and Rob Parrish debate the merits of bringing technology into football

Last Updated: 20/11/09 7:30am

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Controversy in Paris

Controversy in Paris

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Thierry Henry's blatant handball in France's World Cup play-off victory over the Republic of Ireland has reignited the debate over the need for television replays in football.

Henry has since admitted the offence - while denying it was deliberate - before he crossed for William Gallas to bundle the ball home from close range in extra time to secure a 2-1 aggregate success over Ireland at the Stade de France.

Robbie Keane's first-half strike had taken the match into extra time and the contest looked on course to go to penalties to decide who would be heading for the 2010 tournament in South Africa before Henry's sleight of hand.

Thousands of disgruntled supporters have called on Fifa to begin utilising the technology available to ensure that the correct decision is reached, particularly in matches of such global magnitude.

Here, skysports.com's Peter O'Rourke and Rob Parrish put the case for and against the introduction of TV replays.

For - Peter O'Rourke

Again another massive football event has been overshadowed by a controversial incident and it could have been so easily avoided by the use of technology.

The debate of introducing technology to the beautiful game that is football has been going on for some time and it will continue to rage until the football hierarchy make use of the help readily available to them.

Henry's deliberate handball (twice) in helping William Gallas score the goal that ended Ireland's World Cup dreams is hard to stomach for any sports fan, never mind football fan. Unless you are French.

It is not just the Henry handball, there are countless incidents in football. The 'phantom' goals at Bristol City and Watford in the last year alone have seen controversy rule supreme.

Football prides itself on being the most popular game in the world, but for some reason it has found itself fall behind the likes of rugby, tennis, cricket and American sports in failing to embrace technology.

Fans of these sports have welcomed and accepted the introduction of TV technology and it has not doused their passion for the sport. So why would football be any different?

Football purists suggest using TV technology to look at dubious decisions would interrupt the flow of the game, but it does not seem to have done too much harm to rugby, tennis and cricket.

Fifa, it appears, are not fans of using technology despite widespread calls for its introduction, preferring to try and placate fans by experimenting with six officials in the Europa League this season, which has seen its fair share of controversy.

Fifa insist cheating is not part of the game, but when a player or a team gain an unfair advantage by bending the rules it brings into disrepute the professionalism of the sport.

Until football's governing bodies get their heads out of the sand and fully explore TV technology football will sadly find itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, rather than the beautiful game it is.

For an incident that the referee asks to be reviewed by TV replays it would take the same time as it takes for a game to be restarted following the wild celebrations of a team that has scored a goal which should not stand in the first place.

Until common sense prevails in the technology debate it seems another team's dreams like Ireland's will be shattered by football's failure and reluctance to accept help in the future

Against - Rob Parrish

I accept that this argument may not be pitched at the most welcoming of audiences, but I've always liked a challenge, so here goes.

Television replays should be kept out of football. They will ultimately do more harm than good and could remove an integral part of the joy - and pain - of being a football supporter. If you remove all elements of controversy and debate then the game would become a very sterile environment.

We've all witnessed our teams suffer as a result of a questionable call from an official or a piece of gamesmanship (more commonly known as cheating) by opposition players. But every team at every level has also benefited.

There is also the essential question of where the line is drawn with regards to video replays. Do you analyse every goal? Every incident? Every decision? How far back in the build-up to a goal should the replay go? What about the questionable throw-in two minutes before a goal was scored which would have changed the course of play?

Mistakes are made by officials, players and managers. Human error and fallibility - coupled with the increasing desire to win at all costs - means that boundaries will continue to be pushed.

Advocates of video technology shout long and loud about how each decision would only take a few seconds. In some cases - as with Henry - that may be true. But there are other incidents where even after numerous replays from numerous angles no definitive decision can be reached. The sight of the fourth official holding up a board at Old Trafford with 15 additional minutes to be played after a few contentious calls could be closer than you think.

And what happens when an additional angle emerges a few days later which contradicts the previous video evidence? The dream of 100 per cent accuracy should technology be introduced is as realistic as expecting players not to cheat or referees to get every decision right.

Football also lacks the natural breaks in play, which are so prevalent in sports such as cricket and tennis, for video replays to be smoothly introduced.

Picture this scene. Manchester United are at home to Manchester City. The score is locked at 0-0 and time is running out when Carlos Tevez lashes a shot goalwards, it strikes the crossbar, bounces down narrowly behind Edwin van der Sar's line but back into play.

The referee waves play on, United immediately go on the attack and Wayne Rooney dances through the City defence before slotting home. Old Trafford erupts and Sir Alex Ferguson dances a jig of delight on the touchline as Gary Neville French-kisses his badge beyond recognition.

But wait. United's 'goal' is the first natural break in play and the fourth official studies his video screen to view Tevez's effort again. Rooney's effort is ruled out and instead of United celebrating being 1-0 up, they are now 1-0 down. I predict a riot.

Television has a very welcome place in football - but it is only to bring the game into the home of millions and highlight the incidents which keep supporters talking for days, weeks, months and years to come.

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