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Dus will go nuts

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Just award us the FA Cup & be done with it


It comes too late for Tottenham Hotspur, Milan, QPR, England and various other high-profile and still-irate victims of the "ghost goal" or its equally disagreeable twin, the unfair denial of a goal after the ball has crossed the line, but the key meeting of the International Football Association Board due to take place in Kiev on 2 July, the morning after the Euro 2012 final, looks certain to legislate for such miscarriages of justice to be eradicated from the game. Not quick enough for the start of the 2012-13 Premier League season, however.


On Thursday at Southampton's St Mary's ground further testing took place on the Hawk-Eye system, one of two methods undergoing technological assessment in phase two of an evaluation process that began last year with eight companies participating, six of them discounted after the first round of trials. Hawk-Eye, whose success with cricket and tennis has transformed those sports, employs the same basic principles, deploying seven cameras suspended from the stadium roof in each half of the field and triangulating the path of the ball.


In the goalmouth in front of the Northam Stand, a machine that fired balls towards the goal sat under a blue show-must-go-on, back-garden-party gazebo. In each test 400 balls were hit at a wall placed at various distances before, on and behind the goalline. When the ball is judged by the apparatus to have crossed the line it transmits a signal to a wrist device worn by the referee and his assistants to indicate "goal" or "no goal". Later "defenders" were introduced in the shape of wire figures decked out in full kit to replicate penalty area traffic and on Friday youth players will take part to simulate scenarios from actual games.


Further laboratory tests are scheduled to examine a variety of ambient and technical conditions ranging from how the system copes at altitude to assess how it would work, say, in La Paz, Bolivia, intense heat, no doubt mindful of the Qatar World Cup, extreme cold, think Champions League ties in Russia, and humidity. The final hurdle will be a trial in two live matches, beginning with the Hampshire Senior FA Cup final between Eastleigh and AFC Totton at St Mary's next Wednesday. The technology will be there if required, but given such incidents are rare it is likely that there will not be much to see.


The other system under investigation by Fifa's designated inspection team, Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials, Science and Technology), in this second phase is GoalRef which uses a device in the ball, likened to an aerial, and a magnetic field to determine whether the ball has crossed the line, trials for which will take place this month in at least one Danish Superligaen match.


If all goes well, it is understood that the International Football Association Board (IFAB), Fifa's law-making body, will license both technologies at the meeting in Kiev and leave it up to the various leagues around the world to decide which, if any, they choose to introduce. Neale Barry, the Football Association's head of senior referee development and an IFAB technical committee member, says he is "pretty confident" that if the tests yield positive results they will be approved for implementation. And, having consulted his charges, he is also convinced the referees will welcome it. "I haven't come across a referee who isn't in favour because it's a black and white issue," he says. "If we are able to bring it in and if it works then they are in favour."


He does not worry, however, that goalline technology will be a Trojan horse for further innovations such as video replays for offsides and other line calls. "The decision is instant to the referee," he says. "In my personal view it's about fact not opinion, and to get here from the practical sense. From a refereeing point of view we are comfortable with it. Ifab is very conservative. I'd be astonished if we went to other forms of technology. We would always have the debate but we'd have to be firmly convinced to introduce other forms of technology."


The last time IFAB deliberated the issue, in 2010, Wales and Northern Ireland voted with the blocking group and against England and Scotland. But the fallout from Frank Lampard's "goal" against Germany at that year's World Cup and changes in personnel at the top of the two football associations have changed their views.


The benefits of the HawkEye system, says Steve Carter, the company's managing director, is "that there is no interference with the ball. The testing process has been exceptionally rigorous and whichever system is approved, every football fan can sleep easy at night knowing they are accurate".


The cost of setting up the cameras are, Hawk-Eye says, a matter of commercial confidence but one way in which they could be subsidised is through sponsorship but that may depend on whether Fifa will allow the images to be broadcast. His firm's technology is, he says, "a Rolls Royce system" but as further advancements are made to cameras there may be scope to scale back.


If it seemed for much of the past decade that Fifa was fundamentally opposed to goalline technology, that obduracy has changed since the 2010 World Cup. The momentum now seems unstoppable, though if both systems are approved they will still need time to be produced, installed and tested at each ground. That makes the 2013-14 season a far more likely date for launch in the Premier League and given that the Major League Soccer season begins in March, the United States may well be the pioneer.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Always wondered about better game management.


For example, everyone is watching on tv, we can see why a tackle is wrong, or someone has dived. Why not have the fourth official watching the game and punishing 5 or 10 minutes later, soon as they are sure?


It's about time we separate the game we all play to game we all watch.

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