Where do we draw the line?
Hawk-Eye had a rather low key affair in England’s recent friendly victory over Belgium on June 2nd. Whilst the data gathered was only for an exclusive panel of senior FIFA officials, there were no contentious moments at either end which perhaps has culminated in little attention for the highly decorated technology.
Back in January 2007 the English Premier League first contracted Hawk-Eye Innovations (amongst others) to develop goal-line technology. Since then the footballing world has seen Sepp Blatter (President of FIFA) go from fervently slating its inclusion to supporting it.
It took Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany at the World Cup in 2010 to change his mind. The Chelsea midfielder’s looping effort from the edge of the box connected with the underside of the bar, bounced a yard inside of the goal, bounced out and was anxiously gathered by Germany’s Manuel Neuer. Everyone in the stadium seemed to see it, except the referee.
Two days later Blatter lamented the “evident referee mistake”. He made a public apology to the F.A. and announced, “It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be nonsense not to re-open the file on goal-line technology. […] We will come out with a new model in November on how to improve high level referees.”
Who else is involved?
Initially 8 systems were trialled by FIFA. Only Hawk-Eye and its Danish-German rival, GoalRef, are now left in the running after successfully passing Phase 1 of the FIFA approval process. Even Adidas-sponsored Cairos GLT did not match up to FIFA’s expectations.
|Based on the principle of triangulation, tracking the ball in mid-flight.||Utilises a layer of microchips within the ball and low magnetic waves around the goal.|
|Requires 25% of the ball to be visible for accurate decision. May lead to controversy should the ball be obscured.||Magnetic field and interpretation would not be disrupted in the presence of several bodies.|
|Visually more stimulating for broadcast and in-stadia.||Only referee could signal a goal.|
|Six cameras required at each goalmouth.||Modified goalposts.|
|High installation costs, £250,000 per stadium.||Comparatively inexpensive going as far as saying, “the system also lends itself to use in amateur leagues.”|
|Within FIFA’s “one-second” notification window.||Instantaneous radio transmission < one tength of a second.|
|Major adaptation required if transferred to hockey, handball amongst others.||System already successfully trialled at handball games.|
With the inclusion of goal-line technology looking increasingly likely (providing they pass Phase 2), who will use it? And could this pave the way for more innovations?
Michel Platini (President of UEFA) has stood firm in his views and denied the need for technology, suggesting additional officials are sufficient. He argues that given goalmouth disputes are relatively few and far between, goal-line technology does not represent a sound investment.
There are also issues on the domestic front. Whilst all 20 Premier league teams could easily afford and implement the technology, would it be fair to allow these teams the technology during the F.A. Cup? Would relegated teams be allowed to utilise it further down the Football League? Would the Championship even have it?
All of this is up for debate. However we can find some solace in the world of Tennis.
Of the four Grand-Slam tournaments, only Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open use Hawk-Eye. The clay courts of Roland Garros are not blessed with the technology and remain against its inclusion.
This makes the French Open unique. There are no breaks in play for challenges, fewer mind games in fact, and the umpire has the final word. Human error leads to contentious decisions and controversy – something that many argue is integral to football. The F.A. Cup could retain its sparkle if goal-line technology is ignored.
Sure, England fans could and should have celebrated Lampard’s goal in South Africa, but you can’t deny the primal feeling you get screaming at the top of your voice, hoping for some divine intervention to no avail. Look at it from the reverse perspective. Imagine if a German boot was on the wrong end of that decision. Absolute ecstasy.
Could there be more innovations?
Whilst Blatter’s change of heart confirms that indeed, anything is possible in sport, it seems highly unlikely, at least for now. Video replays are commonplace in rugby and despite the high-numbers of cameras already present at Premier League grounds, no footballing body can see a use for them beyond their broadcasting purposes, due in part to the long breaks in play while a decision is reached.
However, Everton boss David Moyes suggested this footage could be used to retrospectively punish players for simulation (diving). The F.A. already demonstrates its use, handing out lengthier bans if a tackle is deemed particularly reckless or if the referee does not include an incident in his post-match report. Extending its use to diving could help minimise play-acting.
“If it was me, the best way to make our referees’ job easier would be to have retrospective punishment on diving because the players are so good at it, but if you check afterwards to see if they have done it and you find they did then you ban them.” This makes perfect sense.
It looks as if Premiership managers will finally get what they’ve been demanding for years. The fans will applaud its value. Pundits will revel in the glorified 3D imaging. FIFA will no doubt herald it as a “fresh start.” Whether it will be Hawk-Eye or GoalRef remains to be seen. My money’s on Hawk-Eye. And GoalRef.
- Goal-line technology at Wembley (bbc.co.uk)
- Chelsea’s “Ghost Goal” Another Case for Goal-Line Technology: So Why the Wait? (bleacherreport.com)
- With Goal-Line Tech, Soccer Tries Kicking Its Addiction to Human Error (wired.com)