The exhilarating disclosure that the Premier League is to introduce HawkEye goal-line technology from 2008/09 is an incremental move in the right direction. Ignoring the pertinent fact that suitable technology has been around for years (we can send probes to Saturn but are unable to determine whether a football has moved across a line, apparently!), any potential implementation of the necessary adjustments to technology, rules, officiating, institutions etc that will make football more meritocratic and less corrupt have to be applauded. Clap clap...
HawkEye has been used in a peripheral manner in tennis and cricket for years but it's impending introduction to football provides real clout and status to the technology.
Our prime concern is with the software. Unless external independent inspection is available in real time from the development of the specific software to the activation in a year a half, there exists the potential for corrupt individuals to gain control of the process. There are currently rumours around certain trading circles that one of the reasons for the delay in introducing the technology was the corrupter's inability to control the technological advance either by personnel or programming.
There are two parallels worthy of consideration in other highly manipulated spectacular society presentations.
Firstly, there has been considerable analysis in the USA over the bias brought into recent American elections through the use of computerised voting machines. Leaving aside other anti-democratic manipulations like creative gerrymandering and allowing a controlled judiciary to determine the electoral outcomes in imperial nations, there has been a heated debate over the fact that the firm which developed the software not only make election donations to the Republican Party but also refuse to make their software open source. The potential for corruption is evident.
Secondly, horseracing has been utilising technology to determine the "results" of close races for many years. The corrupt nature of such photo finish technology is now very highly tuned. Put simply, the process originates with the collection of the images; the background is then removed leaving merely the horses and the track; a calibration indicating the apparent position of the finishing line etc is then created; next, a suitable line is produced in a suitable place to achieve a suitable result with respect to the racing and betting sector's interests. On occasions where there is no point where the horse who is required to "win" is actually ahead, the closest point is chosen and the suitable line is now created at a suitable non-90 degree angle to achieve a suitable dead heat or squeaky narrow victory. When I used to make my living travelling around the horserace betting rings of Britain, close photo finishes were a profitable source of income for the quick-thinking and acting contrary trader - just another way of making your living out of trading societal corruption.
This will not just be an issue with the introduction of this particular form of technology. At every point in the future when the institutions, authorities and government wish to bring technological advances to our existences, it must be up to such bodies to ensure that their techie stuff is clean.
Yeah right... I can see a process now of initial self-regulation reluctantly being replaced by the establishment of a toothless regulatory body after some future football betting/technology scandal.
Quoting Peter Larmour from the Australian National University "corruption is better tackled by reducing institutional opportunities for it, rather than by dictatorial crusades from a strong-arm regime that sets itself up as detective, judge and juror".
It is slightly disturbing that an academic opinion related to post-coup Fiji also applies to the corrupt nation of English Premiership football.
Yet another big thank you to Mr Murdoch.