England v Germany: Goal-line technology decision imminent
Football's world governing body Fifa and other organisations are preparing to vote on something many fans of the game have been crying out for: goal-line technology (GLT).
For years, supporters have watched, heads in hands, as balls bounced over the line - only for the referee and his assistants to somehow be the only people in the stadium not to see the clear goal.
Meanwhile, other sports like tennis, cricket and rugby have all embraced technology to assist officials in making the right decisions.
But in football, the powers-that-be have always been reluctant. Fifa's outspoken president Sepp Blatter said he didn't want to slow the game down or make it less exciting.
The footballer's view
I'm against it. I just think human error is a part of football, there are just so many things that go unseen by the referee, and I don't see why goal-line technology should take a preference over a penalty appeal or a foul that might lead to something that might lead to a goal.
It's just one area of football that we're trying to perfect when there are many areas that are left to human error. With technology, where do you stop? Surely an offside decision for a winning goal to get a team into the premier league is as important as whether the ball goes over the line or not.
I know I stand alone - I'm probably one in a hundred. I understand the argument for goal-line technology, of course I do, but I played in hundreds of games where the referee hasn't seen certain things. There are a lot of important decisions that referees miss.
In Europe, Uefa president Michel Platini has been equally hesitant, instead pressing ahead with the largely unpopular introduction of extra officials near the goal-line - an addition viewed by many as useless.
One such official was described by a television pundit as "just a bloke with a silly wand".
But a shot by England's Frank Lampard during a World Cup match versus Germany in 2010 meant Fifa had no choice but to reconsider.
It was clear - to everyone except the officials - that it had crossed the line.
The wheels were finally set in motion to make GLT part of the beautiful game - and on Thursday football chiefs will decide which technology will be given the green light.Hawk-Eye vs Goalref
In 2011 Fifa released a document outlining the criteria which the technology must meet:
- Accuracy must be 100% - with no concessions made for shots that, for example, hit the side netting and bulge into the goal.
- The referee must be notified of the goal within a second of it crossing the line, as any longer would disrupt the flow of the match.
- And the technology must be able to work both during the day and at night under floodlights, and in all weather conditions.
Of 12 initial candidates, just two companies made the cut. And, fittingly enough, it's England versus Germany all over again.
From Germany: Goalref, a system which relies on a customised ball with a special sensor in the middle.
When the ball crosses the line it disrupts a magnetic field, and the referee is told almost instantly.
England's offering is Hawk-Eye, a technology that will be familiar to many sports fans thanks to its widespread adoption in tennis and cricket.
The lower league view
Goal-line technology is a must in football. If it can be proven that it's economically viable outside the major leagues in any country, it should be introduced wherever possible.
Any technology that proves whether the ball is over the line or not has to be right, because that's what football is all about: goals. As long as it does the job, that's the right thing for football.
The conference has got more and more professional over the years. It would be important that the Conference considers it.
It is a camera-based system; six for each goal, set up in various parts of the ground. When combined they can pinpoint exactly where the ball is. Like Goalref, the referee is then informed immediately via a wristwatch.Drama vs cost
A simple choice between in-the-ball or in-the-stands tech then? Not quite.
The vote, to be hosted by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) - of which Fifa represents 50% of the vote - is about a lot more.
For instance, Hawk-Eye relies on more than 25% of the ball being visible to its cameras. A messy goalmouth scramble could stop it working.
But the Hawk-Eye method brings great "was it in?!" drama, and while Goalref can merely tell the referee and supporters that the ball has gone in, Hawk-Eye can provide documented evidence of the fact via an instant virtual-reality replay.
But Goalref has a trump card: cost. The system itself is easier and cheaper to install than Hawk-Eye, and doesn't require any extra surrounding structures to which to attach cameras.
It means it is far more likely that Goalref could be used in almost any significant football league.
There is a chance, Fifa told the BBC, that both systems could get the IFAB's backing.
It would mean leagues across the world could decide to adopt either system - with the most likely scenario being that the top divisions, such as the Premier League, would go for Hawk-Eye, with Goalref adopted in the lower leagues to keep costs down.
The expert's view
In a weird way, one argument is to say that it won't make any difference at all. There is not a piece of technology in the world that is infallible. In every measurement that you make in life, there is an uncertain associated with it.
It ought to eliminate blunders and mistakes - like the situation with Frank Lampard's goal in the World Cup. Any system that is employed ought to detect that as it was a gross mistake.
But the Ukraine goal against England in the recent championships is a slightly different story. That was very very close.
I watch recordings day-in, day-out, we analyse footage at over one thousand frames per second. What was interesting in the reaction to the Ukraine goal was that it was almost unanimous in the media that it was a goal. But yet I looked at the footage and thought 'how confident could I be?'. I definitely wouldn't have been 100% confident.
Let's imagine the technology had been in place, and had said 'no goal', we'd still have pundits in the studio saying that 'everyone could see it was over the line'.
Whichever they choose, it will mean that leagues finally have got the green light for the technology to be rolled out. It will be too soon for the upcoming Premier League season, officials said, but by 2013-2014 we could see it in action around the UK's stadiums.
The first major league to take it up could be the US Major League Soccer - home to David Beckham - which kicks off its next season in March.
However, one league we're unlikely to see technology at in the near future is the Champions League, despite it being host to several controversial goal-line incidents.
Such is Uefa president Michel Platini's disdain for GLT, he has called for Fifa to postpone Thursday's decision and instead "start an open debate about technology in football".
"I am wholly against goal-line technology," the Frenchman said.
"But it's not just goal-line technology. I am against technology itself because it will invade every single area of football."
At the time of writing, Fifa has told the BBC that the vote is still set to go ahead despite Uefa's protests - but that could potentially change at the last minute.
Additionally, the members of the IFAB panel could vote for neither option - sending the process back to the drawing board.
Should that happen, it will no doubt be seen by most fans worldwide as one of world football's biggest own goals to date.