FIFA tested several systems before approving the use of goal-line technology. Photo courtesy of FIFA
Soccer News: FIFA Joins the Modern Era and Approves Goal-Line Technology
Ammended/updated July 7, 2012, 2:30 p.m. PT
For years the National Football League has had an instant replay system that allows officials to determine whether or not what appears to have happened on the field actually happened.
The National Basketball Association, NCAA basketball and Major League Baseball also use some form of instant replay to help officials determine action in the game.
Now soccer will join the ranks of technology-using sports with the decision by the International Football Association Board (IFAB - made up of FIFA* and the four British Associations*) that goal-line technology can be implemented to help referees determine when and if a goal has been scored.
For years it has been acknowledged around the world that, as hard as they work and as well as they perform their duties, referees cannot always determine if the ball has completely crossed the goal line on a shot.
This was most recently evident in the England vs. Ukraine match in the UEFA EURO 2012 competition. A goal by Ukraine was disallowed by the officials, who ruled that England had cleared the shot before it had crossed the line. Later video showed that the ball had definitely passed the plane of the goal mouth before defender John Terry could clear it.
While this was probably not the final deciding factor for FIFA, it was no doubt one of many that helped the sport’s governing body to make the final call in favor of goal-line technology.
With the decision, two companies will now provide the equipment that will, it is hoped, make sure that a goal is really a goal. The two systems that will be implemented are Hawk-Eye, which uses multiple high-speed cameras, and GoalRef, which employs a magnetic device inside the ball and “low-intensity magnetic fields” around the goal.
“At a high speed, the human eye cannot determine if the ball crossed the line,” pointed out Alex Stone, Senior Media Relations Manager for FIFA. “The use of goal line technology does not change the fundamental laws of the game, but does assist in identifying the critical moments of the game.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter told reporters on Thursday, “It’s a very modern decision to apply this to football. It is so important because the objective of football is to score goals. With the new techniques and the new tactics, it’s difficult to score goals, so it helps to use technology to help identify when a goal is scored. It’s a help to the referee. There was a call for this technology and now I can say that we did it.”
Some may question why it took so long for FIFA to approve the use of goal-line technology, but the organization points out that out of ten companies that took part in the first testing, none were able to reach the level of confidence required. In the second round of testing eight companies took part but only two reached the final level.
“Test criteria was set to replicate real game-like situations,” said Stone. “The decision of whether or not a goal has been scored has to be instantaneous, as this sport does not have natural pauses like other sports.”
In the testing, some of the systems could not operate successfully under certain weather conditions, such as heavy rain. Others failed to distinguish when balls had hit the side or top of the net rather than going in for the goal.
“FIFA exhaustively tested the technologies before moving forward and is satisfied that the reliability and accuracy exists to aid the game and not provoke further controversy,” Stone explained.
Both of the systems that passed testing were required to provide notification of a goal scored within one second of it happening. The GoalRef system does this by implanting a compact electronic device in the ball. Low-intensity magnetic fields create “the radio equivalent of a light curtain” across the goal mouth. When the ball completely passes through this curtain, the system detects the change in the magnetic field and sends a signal to the referees’ game watches by display and vibration.
The Hawk-Eye system uses six to eight high-speed cameras set up at each end of the pitch, each covering the goal mouth from a different angle. The data from the cameras is processed by video software to determine if and when the ball completely passes the plane of the goal mouth. The software generates a 3-D image which is then used by the system to identify the exact placement of the ball. As with GoalRef, the system transmits the notification through referee watches.
|The International Football Association Board has decided that goal-line technology can be used to determine when a goal has been scored. Photo courtesy of FIFA
FIFA has assured traditionalists that referees will still have the final say on goals. If an official is certain the system is not performing properly, notification – or lack of notification – can be overruled by the head referee. Before a game, up to six referees will evaluate the system to confirm that it is working properly.
“The feedback has been positive from around the globe,” said Stone, “and referees have generally backed the idea that if there is something to help the officials identify those difficult moments, they would appreciate it, as long as it was reliable and accurate. Making a good decision in good faith, and then knowing you made a bad decision, is the worst possible situation for an honorable referee – or anyone!”
It appears as if the English Premier League will be among the first to implement goal-line technology, with a spokesman saying the plan is to bring it on line “as soon as possible.” As for FIFA’s plan for using the systems, when asked if it would be used in the 2014 World Cup Blatter told reporters, “It is my plan to have it used at Brazil 2014, yes. We will use the system also for the Confederations Cup and this year’s FIFA Club World Cup.”
With two years before the next World Cup, it will be interesting to see if any bugs – and anything technological can have bugs – will be identified. After the exhaustive testing performed by FIFA, it seems less likely than with other sports technologies, but there is ample time prior to the World Cup to determine this.
There will always be some fans that oppose the use of any technology in the game, believing that the human aspect is part of what makes it the “beautiful game.” Others will point to the problems that have arisen in other sports that already use technology for decision-making purposes. But if technology can help award one single goal and change the fate of one game, then it is worth it. Humans developed technology to help mankind and progress has always been slowly accepted, but we are not in the movies where we fear machines taking over our lives.
Like it or hate it, goal-line technology is here to stay. As they say, you can’t un-ring the bell once it has been sounded. No doubt in a few years most people will tend to forget there was a time when we had to rely on the human eye for that split-second determination of whether or not the ball crossed the goal line. Then we can move on to some other aspect of the game to debate.
*Just for those who need to know or remember....
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the world governing body for the sport of association football, which it promotes on a worldwide basis through its development programms as well as by organizing, supervising and promoting international association football competitions.
The International Football Association Board (“IFAB“) is made up of representatives of the following four football associations, England’s Football Association (The FA), the Scottish Football Association (SFA), the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Northern Ireland’s Irish Football Association (IFA), as well as FIFA.
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