Blades and Owls could become poor cousins

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WHAT do Walter Wolfgang and football have in common?

At first glance, admittedly, very little. I don’t know whether the Labour activist, arrested by members of Sussex Constabulary after heckling Jack Straw at the party’s 2005 conference, is a fan.

But what I do know is that Wolfgang, carted off by the Old Bill and then detained under powers granted to them under the Terrorism Act, was a victim of ‘law creep.’ My made-up phenomena whereby rules and regulations implemented for a specific purpose inevitably start permeating all sorts of different spheres. Ones usually far more mundane than those for which they were specifically created.

Which is why, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting the introduction of technology in the beautiful game, governing bodies such as FIFA, UEFA and the FA must think long and hard before opening the floodgates.

The push for match officials to be granted a little extra help gathered momentum when Queens Park Rangers were denied a legitimate goal during last weekend’s top-flight showdown with Bolton Wanderers.

Two systems - Hawk-Eye and GoalRef - are currently being examined by the blazers in Zurich, with some reports claiming one could be implemented next term.

Some Sheffield United supporters, albeit not very many, felt Danny Wilson’s side had been the victims of a similar injustice during the recent Steel City derby at Hillsborough when Lee Williamson’s free-kick ricocheted down and out off Stephen Bywater’s crossbar but not, according to referee Mark Halsey or his relevant assistant, before crossing the line.

Asked by one fan during the immediate aftermath of that absorbing contest whether I could shed any light on the matter, I admitted that I couldn’t. Television replays tend to be the sole preserve of Premier League press boxes. And therein lies the problem.

If QPR are relegated at the end of the season as a direct result of the officials’ failure to register Clint Hill’s effort then they have every reason to feel aggrieved. Especially, as many have pointed out, because of the millions they would lose by surrendering their Premier League status.

But unless Hawk-Eye or GoalRef are rolled out across professional competition as a whole then the vast majority of teams will effectively be deemed as second-class citizens.

Should the likes of Rangers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle be subject to better decision making than Tranmere Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Colchester and Northampton? - or, for that matter, United and Sheffield Wednesday? - simply because they have more millions in the bank?

It’s a bit like saying that only those who can afford to pay for a lawyer or own their own home deserve legal representation at trial.

I’m not saying goalline technology must not be utilised. Just warning that, if it is, the first dubious offside or sending-off means it won’t stop there.

And that, within a decade, football will have a very different feel.