England v Germany: Goal-line technology decision imminent

Germany goalkeeper dives as Frank Lampard shot bounces behind the line. Goal! It was this effort, from England's Frank Lampard, that set the ball rolling for Thursday's vote on goal-line technology

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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.

Goal-line technology explainer

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.

Goal-line incidents in England history England's drama: (L-R) dubiously awarded a goal in 1966; denied a clear goal in 2010; and lucky not to concede against Ukraine this summer

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'.

Uefa protests

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    One point I've not seen covered is that not only are refs imperfect, which is fine up to a point, but mistakes on high-stakes games leaves them open to allegations of corruption.
    At a practical level, the ref's main job is to be near active play; and with a distant goal from a long shot, it's hardly fair to expect quality decisions in that context. They will default to status quo when in doubt.

  • Comment number 221.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    How is it going to ruin the game? A "did it cross the line" incident only happens about once in a PL season! No-one is suggesting using it in the Football League's jumpers for goal posts games.
    It seems ridiculous that referees are obliged to stop play every time one of our foreign prima donnas fakes a head injury, but we can't stop play to see if a goal was scored!

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    18 Minutes ago
    Actually their (sic) in the Top 8 - if you count Euro 2012 and will be seeded in the World Cup.

    Gosh, and there was me thinking they were rubbish. Remind me, how many trophy's has '8th' put in the cupboard these past 50 years?


    Irrelevent of trophies I was merely pointing out they are not so much on the scrap heap as people tend to think

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    It's about time technology was used to decide if a goal is legitimate or not. There's no reason why it can't be used. Another thing which could be done would be to have video replays to check that the goal isn't offside. Also if the replays can be shown during the game it may prevent any trouble among rival supporters. DO IT NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    To all the people saying human error is part of the game,would you be so forgiving if a human error cost you or your business a potentially amount of money.I'd also like to see video refs who have the power to send divers off.let's talk about the game not bad refereeing descisions

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    It seems to me that most people in favour of GLT tend to be 'armchair fans' "

    hmm - and you seem never to have seen England play rugby or cricket live. Yes, other sports are available and they use 'technology' to aid decisions and its still a great experience

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    I think this is the first time i've ever agreed with Mark Bright! We don't need this in football, disputed goals are all part and parcel of the game. I'm sure the Premier League stay at home and watch on TV brigade want everything to be Playstation perfect because they don't acutally understand live football.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    I totally disagree with anyone that says "it's about human endevaour' or 'luck of the game'. If by a miracle England managed to reach the finals of say the World Cup or the Euro and had a crucial goal disallowed then everyone would be up in arms about it. Goal line technology will not disrupt the game. From what I can tell, the watch that the referee would wear would give an instant yes or no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Hawk-Eye is my preference, because of the evidential transparency, but GoalRef is more cost effective and more universally applicable.

    I would be happier with either, than with nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Human error is the problem. Adding more humans has proved fruitless. The logical conclusion is to remove human error by removing humans

    Technology all the way. Set a time in the future, such as 2032, and work towards removing all human referees by that date. FIFA have the money to develope this. Cameras and computers are cheap, even for grass roots levels and they'll be even cheaper in 20 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    I agree with Mark Bright as well. The perfect example was the one we just had in the Euros with the Ukraine "goal". Let's say it had crossed the line - should it have been a goal? No, because there was a clear offside in the build up the the attempt. So the technology would have given a goal even though it shouldn't have been!

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    In response to stfcd; I do not watch football for controversial decisions, I watch for skill, tactics and passion, none of which would be negated by correct refereeing decisions. I am much more content reviewing a perfectly officiated game decided by one team's superiority as opposed to the officials' incompetence and I'm bored of the constant degradation of refs for getting close calls wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    I also agree with Mark. How many times in a Premier League season do we see decisions that goal line technology would change?
    Compare this to the week in week out problems with incorrect offside decisions that either allow a goal that should not have been or cancel out a perfectly good goal. The authorities are simply picking on an easy area to police without interupting the flow of a game

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Nets were introduced over a century ago to prove whther or not a goal had occurred. I don't think that similar technological upgrades to the game are out of order. We want the best team to win; not the team with the most luck with refs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    The thing is football isn't rugby, tennis or cricket those games allow you to wait to see if it a point, try or out. Football isn't i go every week and if i had to wait even a few seconds to start cheering it takes it away so a few cheeky goals get counted or disallowed but so what thats all part of the game. things go your way and things don't. that life get over it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    The fact that Fifa are choosing a product and not a techology leaves them open to charges of favouritism and a closed shop. Clubs should have a range of products to choose from so the poorer clubs (and even schools) can get the more affordable versions. But FIFA represents only itself and big budget football and not the majority of clubs, players, refs and supporters that actually make up the game

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    How accurate will it be? Half an inch? A sixteenth? A thousandth? What about minor variations in the line, due to bumps or uneven grass?

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Even with two fellas either side of the goal, they didn't see the goal that John Terry 'cleared' off the line in the Euro's, which very obvoiusly went in, so goal line technology is definately needed. It works for tennis, so why not footie

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    191. Perpetual Sigh.
    Tennis (so off topic) you can have as many challenges as you like so long as they are successful. After 3 unsuccessful ones you can't challenge any more.

    I see no problem with GLT for football. It seems to work well in other sports so why not?


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