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Watch: Technology on Malta FA agenda, financial costs a big hurdle

Decisions taken by referees during key moments of domestic matches have over the years been the main source of discussion with fans continuously calling for technology to be introduced in Maltese football.

Since the start of the 2021-22 season, there has been no shortage of controversial decisions taken by the men in black during BOV Premier League matches.

On Sunday night, there was a lot of discussion on a particular incident that happened during the Premier League match between leaders Hibernians and Balzan at the National Stadium.

Midway through the first half, Balzan thought they had taken the lead when Alex Alves’ shot seemed to have crossed the goalline before Hibs defender Andrei Agius cleared the ball away.

Referee Glen Tonna waved away Balzan’s protests but inevitably, the incident has again reignited the debate on whether the Malta FA should finally introduce technological assistance to its match officials.

Alan Mario Sant, the chairman of the referees’ commission within the Malta FA, said that the only way to have certainty on whether the ball had crossed the goalline or not during the Balzan-Hibs match was through technology.

“In such incidents, a goal is only awarded if the whole circumference of the goal has passed the goalline,” Sant told the Times of Malta.

“If you ask the people present, those who felt it was a goal and the others who said that it wasn’t a goal, none of them could be certain. That could only be provided through technology. In this case, either goalline technology or VAR.

“Obviously, every type of assistance that is provided to our match officials is of great benefit.”

Sant said that but both forms of technology require a huge financial investment.

“When you look at the costs of technology, VAR, obviously is very expensive and on the other hand the goalline technology is equally pricey.

“The goalline technology works by having a number of cameras are fixed around the stadium focusing solely on the goal posts. These have to be installed in three stadiums and cannot be moved from one venue to another.

“Added to that, there are added costs, as it’s a licensing system, and before every match you need people to ensure it’s well-calibrated.”

Sant said the discussions on the eventual introduction of technology is always on the MFA agenda but said that it all depends on whether this was a priority or use the money for other projects.

“Discussion on VAR and the goalline technology are always on the discussion table at the MFA but at the end of the day you have to see if it’s a priority at the moment,” Sant said.

“One has to see whether it’s ideal to fork out thousands of euros on the technology at the moment or whether invest them in other areas of Maltese football.

“The Malta FA president has been pushing hard in his discussions with top officials at UEFA and FIFA to ensure that there is no disparity between big countries that can fully afford the technology and smaller ones that need to create the pool of officials, install the needed infrastructure and to make finances available so that countries like Malta will be able to use such technology despite their limitations.

“As a referee department, we give a lot of importance to technology and recently we had one of our referees, Trustin Farrugia Cann, who received training on VAR that would enable him to officiate top international matches in both UEFA and FIFA competitions.

“But I reiterate that the referee commission is always in favour when referees are given more tools to officiate better matches.”

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