Considering that Football – outside of the USA – has remained one of the most popular sports in the world for decades, it is surprising that it remains one of the most technologically backward. Whilst other international sports, such as tennis and cricket, embraced Hawk Eye technology close to a decade ago, football has remained – like a stubborn pensioner with a brick-like mobile device – suspicious and antagonistic to the concept, regardless of the evidence.

Hawk Eye is an advanced form of playback system that identifies if certain shots, or plays, were valid within a point scoring context. In tennis, where it has been mostly welcomed, the system is used to tell if a ball has landed within the lines. It is activated by the player, using one of a limited number of challenges available to them. In football, it is purposed, that the technology will be used to identify if the ball crossed the goal line or not. Due to the generally small number of goals per-match, the system will be activated automatically.

Despite numerous controversial instances, where replays have shown what referees have missed, football’s various organising bodies have refused to implement any serious kind of technology to make these judgment calls, until recently. Sepp Blatter, who previously referred to his stand against Hawk Eye as a means to ‘protect the simplicity and universality of the game’, took somewhat of a U-turn on the subject recently after years of protest surrounding the implication of technology.

This being somewhat symbolic of football’s one step forward, two steps back approach to technology. Where small technical leaps are made quietly, ultimately treated with outrage and fear by most, and then stalled for the next few years. For example, the negative reaction, in 2014, when it was discovered that Roy Hodgson had commissioned a computer analysis centre for World Cup scouting purposes.

England – who are presently 11/1 to win Euro 2016 according to bet365, an international football betting website – have struggled for years in the World Cup. Considering this, you would think the news of a high-tech, state-of-the-art scouting hub would be welcomed and greeted by fans. Wrong.

The hub, located at St George’s Park, has been consistently criticized since its opening. These critiques aimed at the hub’s removal of the human and instinctive element of tactical devising and team management. Which, considering the poor World Cup performance of England in 2014, may have even had a point.

It seems to be that this reaction, to both the hub and Hawk Eye, comes from a fear that technology will somehow, in its campaign to smooth out the rough-edges of football, rob it of its primary appeal. It seems that fans do not want to have the heart of football ripped out and replaced with cold hardware or the blood,sweat and tears drained out and replaced by rubbery wires. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Numerous other sports have introduced computerised elements to their experiences, such as the aforementioned sport of tennis, without sacrificing intensity, integrity or entertainment. Players are still passionate, arguments are still had and instinct – above all else – is still be adhered to. Technology, if used sparingly, instils some neutrality and fairness to proceeding whilst not interfering with the core dynamics of any sport.

Football and technology never have to be the best of friends, in fact they shouldn’t be, but for both fans and players it would be better if they learned to occasionally collaborate.

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