International Football Association Gives Goal-Line Tech a Second Look

By Kevin Hilton

SVG Europe Editor

Like a tenacious team that looks certain to crash out of the top league, goal-line technology has made a surprising comeback and could still make an impact in football. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has given the go-ahead for sportswear and equipment manufacturer Adidas and German 3D-localization specialist Cairos Technologies to present their findings again later this year.

The decision was made at the 123rd-annual general meeting of IFAB held Feb. 28 in Northern Ireland. IFAB comprises representatives of the four home football associations of Britain and Ireland (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) and international governing body FIFA.

The Scottish FA tabled the motion concerning goal-line technology, which its English counterpart declared “dead in the water” last year. After the meeting, Lord Triesman, chairman of the FA in England, acknowledged that there is still “life in the corpse” of goal-line technology.

Adidas and Cairos first demonstrated their Goal Line Technology (GLT) during the 2005 U-17 World Cup in Peru and tested it again at the 2007 Club World Cup in Japan. GLT is based on a microchipped “intelligent ball” developed by Adidas, working in conjunction with Cairos’s system of magnetic field, sensors, and receivers. If the ball crosses the goal line, an encrypted radio signal is sent to a watch worn by the referee as confirmation.

The English Premier League had been assessing an alternative technology developed by the team behind Hawkeye, the virtual tracking system that is now a firm part of both TV coverage and official decisions in tennis and cricket. This work had been suspended, and a spokesman for the Premier League said the organisation would contact FIFA for clarification of the situation before any decision on reviving the Hawkeye project could be made.

There is strong resistance to goal-line technology from some quarters, notably FIFA President Sepp Blatter, but British TV and radio commentators and leading Premier League managers — most recently, Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United — have voiced support for it.

While giving some hope to the advocates of goal-line technology, IFAB also agreed to extend trials of a scheme backed by UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) President Michel Platini. This rejects hardware in favor of an additional assistant referee behind each goal line. The arrangement will be tested in the Italian Cup and the French FA and USA Major League Soccer have also expressed interest.

Platini is confident his method will be official by the time of the Euro 2012 Championship and underlined his opposition to video technology for the job. “I am still against a video referee,” he says. “If you have an additional referee, he can see if the ball is in the goal. You don’t need another system.”

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