Brian Viner: Camera-shy Platini cannot use Cook's long wait to justify refusal

The Last Word
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The Independent Online

Practically every sentient being involved in football now accepts the need for some measure of video technology. Except, alas, those who stalk the corridors of power.

The Uefa president Michel Platini, when I interviewed him a few months ago, deployed all his considerable charm and eloquence to explain to me why he is against goal-line cameras, feeling strongly that football – unlike rugby union, of which he professes to be a great fan – is a flowing game that would be brutalised by the interruptions that come with having to consult video footage.

Maybe he's right. But that he is not even willing to experiment for a season bespeaks a reactionary pig-headedness that has no place in the governance of a multi-billion pound industry. Nor, more topically, do large brown envelopes stuffed with cash have any place in the governance of football, but the excitement over allegations of corruption in high places, not to mention this week's reports of political infighting in the Ukraine, where some Euro 2012 matches seem likely to take place on building-sites (a good friend of mine, who has been advising the Ukrainians on the reconstruction of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, assures me that only divine intervention will render it ready by next summer), should not mean that people in football take their collective eye off the ball. The real ball, that is. The only one that matters. The one that, far too often, is deemed not to have crossed a line, when TV replays show unequivocally that it has. Or, less frequently, deemed to have crossed a line when it hasn't.

Understandably but unfortunately, this only brews up as an issue in the wake of a major incident, such as Frank Lampard's insanely disallowed World Cup goal against Germany a year ago. If the football men would keep up their chuntering all year round, and perhaps especially in the close season, even Platini might eventually cave in. And yet, for all that, and as the Uefa president himself is all too eager to point out, goal-line technology even in this extraordinarily sophisticated age cannot ever be foolproof.

As evidence of this, let me cite Alastair Cook's dismissal on the final day of the second Test match. At Lord's, Cook was stumped by Prasanna Jayawardene on 106, after dancing down the pitch to Rangana Herath. The sports pages were dominated by reports of Matt Prior's unfortunate accident, when an errant dressing-room window pane smashed into his bat, which rather distracted the eye from the amazing fact that this was Cook's first such dismissal in all his eight years of playing first-class cricket.

Never before had England's golden boy been stumped, and he nearly got away with it this time, because the replays of him jamming his bat back into his crease were inconclusive from just about every conceivable angle. The third umpire, like or possibly unlike Cook, was stumped. So, at first, was Michael Atherton in the Sky Sports commentary box, although he concluded that from one camera angle, Cook's bat appeared, albeit by millimetres, not to have been grounded. After what seemed like an eternity, the third umpire took the same view. But I hope Platini wasn't watching. It would have been grist to his mill.

Summer of sport put my studious powers to the Test

For the last few weeks, our household has been run according to revision timetables. We are in the crucible of both GCSEs (a son) and A-Levels (a daughter), kindling vivid memories for my wife and me of our own schoolday exams more than 30 years ago.

Not, it has to be said, that I particularly need to have my memory jogged. I still occasionally have an anxiety dream in which I haven't revised for my French oral, a trauma that is almost – but not quite – worthwhile for the sheer pleasure of waking up and realising that never again will I have to master the past tenses of irregular verbs. Whether these few weeks will leave my children with anxiety dreams in 2041 remains to be seen, but they seem to be on top of the situation in a way that I never was, and I blame sport.

In 1978, my O-Levels coincided with a particularly colourful football World Cup in Argentina, where the quixotic adventures of Ally McLeod's Scotland compensated for England's lamentable absence. I was hooked. Also, that early summer, England's cricketers embarked on a Test series against Pakistan with a new and exciting weapon in the dashing form of David Gower.

My own kids don't watch sport on the telly for hours on end like I did at the same age. This is partly to do with Wii and Facebook and a thousand TV channels, but partly also because of the endless availability of televised sport. For youngsters, paradoxically, its very accessibility has diluted its appeal. I'm a little sad that they'll never know the pleasure of sitting through all five days of a Test match on BBC1 and BBC2. Still, their grades will doubtless be a sight better than mine were.



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