The argument in favour of goalline technology was surely killed stone dead at the DW Stadium on Saturday. One of the most blatantly illegal goals in the history of the Premier League was allowed to stand because all four match officials somehow failed to observe that a corner had not been taken correctly, and no amount of goal frame cameras or microchips in the ball would have helped them work out what had actually happened.
Andre Marriner has been dropped from the coming weekend's Premier League list as a result of his clear error, and quite right too since the TV cameras caught him jogging towards goal with his back to Morten Gamst Pedersen as the corner was being taken, then a close-up nicely captured the look of puzzlement mixed with foreboding on his face as he worked out that something not quite right must have happened but he couldn't be sure what.
The situation should never have arisen, since at least one of the officials should have been keeping an eye on the corner taker, but once the dilemma did present itself what could Marriner have possibly done to put things right? Nothing, as the rules stand, and still nothing should the rules ever to be changed to incorporate goalline technology.
Yet as so often in these controversial judgment calls – Thierry Henry's handball for France comes to mind, as do a series of dives for penalties and goals that never were or should have been awarded – a simple solution was available to hand. All the referee had to do was ask to review the incident on a monitor, or radio upstairs so that someone else could check what had happened via an instant replay. It would take only a matter of seconds, and even in the unlikely event of two or three such referrals being necessary in the same game, play would be held up for a couple of minutes at most. Quite often treatment for injuries causes a break in play lasting longer than that.
Whether football wishes to take a leaf out of rugby's book and display the replays on a giant screen for the benefit of the crowd is another matter, though the paying spectator deserves something for his money. At the moment the television viewer gets by far the best deal. That is why monitor referral should be introduced at once, because all these set-piece controversies are in televised matches, and it is the fact of replays almost instantly proving the referee wrong that generates the publicity and outrage. It is true that the system would not easily adapt to park football, or even lower league games, but neither would goalline technology. To some extent that is an irrelevance, however, because if the television cameras are not there in the first place hardly anyone gets to hear about the supposed injustice, let alone see proof of it.
Yes, goalline technology would have awarded Frank Lampard's goal against Germany in the last World Cup, but so would monitor referral. The latter would also have disallowed France's goal against Ireland in the World Cup play-off, and chalked off Blackburn's second goal against Wigan on Saturday. Then again, the referee was entitled to be slightly confused on that occasion, because the Wigan players barely mounted a protest worthy of the name. You would imagine, when you are bottom of the league playing the team immediately above you, that you would be telling the referee what had happened in no uncertain terms when you had seen an opponent play a corner to himself, but instead of following Richard Dunne's example in Paris the Latics looked as sheepish and confused as Marriner himself.
According to Roberto Martínez, this is because he has told his players never to show dissent. That simply does not ring true, or at least if it is true it can only mean that all fight has already been extinguished from the Wigan players with a month still to go before Christmas. The Tics have been in some unpromising situations before, and still survived, but in all their seven years in the top flight their present situation looks by far the most unsustainable. Or to put it another way, Martínez had better hope his players obtain something from their visit to Sunderland on Saturday and the trip to West Bromwich a fortnight later.
Nothing can be guaranteed from those games, as anyone who witnessed Wigan's limp surrender at Wolves will testify. But Wigan's other four games up to and including Christmas are against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. Wigan may have made a virtue of doing things the hard way, but with only one win from a dozen games and the fixture list doing them no favours, it's shaping up to be a cold Christmas, even if Wigan did finally make it to second spot on Match of the Day last Saturday on account of the undoubted entertainment value of their six-goal thriller with Blackburn. The way things are going, the rematch could be one of the most eagerly awaited highlights in the Championship next season.