Goal-Line Technology: A Source of Cost and Controversy

By | November 5, 2013

On October 10, FIFA announced that GoalControl GmbH would be the official provider of goal-line technology (GLT) for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. GLT was first successfully used in the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, and although there were no goal-line incidents which required the technology to determine whether or not a goal had been scored, the system met all necessary FIFA requirements and correctly indicated every one of the 68 goals correctly.

How It Works

GoalControl’s system utilizes 14 high-speed cameras – 7 on each goal – that take full-frame, full-color images at a rate of 500 photos/minute. If the ball crosses the goal line, a vibrational and visual signal is sent to each match official’s watch with 1 second. While this is all very impressive, GoalControl only guarantees 3 cm of accuracy. For extremely close-call goals, this may not be enough.

Cost and Financial Considerations

GoalControl is estimated to cost $260,000 per stadium and an addition $3,900 per game. This isn’t pocket change, and for teams under financial pressure, GLT might not be an option. The Football League has confirmed using GLT in later rounds of this season’s League Cup, and this decision is primarily money-driven. According to Watford manager, Gianfraco Zola – a recent victim of being denied what appeared to be a legitimate goal against Brighton & Hove Albion, so much money rides on results. A promotion to the Premier League is worth more than £100m to clubs.  On the other hand, the MLS will not adopt goal-line technology by 2014 on account of its high cost. Nelson Rodriguez, VP of Competition and Operations, shared that the MLS has met with multiple GLT manufactures, but is planning to wait and see how it works out for other leagues. This is a smart decision for the MLS: holding off on immediate adoption will give the goal-line tech market time to mature, become more competitive and ultimately assure MLS a better deal on a better product.

Do We Really Need GLT?

Goal-line technology has sparked a highly controversial debate. Personally, I believe GLT is a necessary addition to the game. While it is costly, goals in soccer occur so infrequently – unlike other sports where scoring can be constant – that it is absolutely necessary to get these calls right. If a team scores, it is inexcusable not to award the goal on account of human error. The naysayers out there have a few main counterarguments, and I would like to look at each one individually:

1. It will ruin the flow of the game

Soccer is unique in that it is the only sport with nearly uninterrupted play. Other sports allow several timeouts or are composed of a series of discrete points, with natural breaks in between. Soccer’s beauty lies in its natural fluidity and unpredictability, and I agree: goal-line technology should not ruin this aspect of the game. However, I do not believe that GLT will change this. Many are concerned that, like in American football, referees will spend several minutes with their heads underneath a monitor reviewing the play, causing an unnecessary delay and players’ muscle to go cold. As GLT stands now, this will not happen. Goals already cause a pause in action. More importantly, however, GoalControl will subtly alert referees if a goal has occurred. There will be no flags thrown, no unnecessary drama while the referee reviews and the audience watches along on the big screen. At the end of the day, technology will be the deciding factor, not human judgment. I do think the 3 cm margin of error is still too high and will ultimately need to be made smaller, but it is far better than a referee standing 10 yards away.

2. You give a league GLT…

…they’ll want offsides technology. And if you give them offsides technology, they’ll next want penalty area review. To this, I say: let’s cross that bridge when we get there. For now, only goal-line technology exists, and it would be a beneficial additional to the game. Most officiating decisions in soccer are highly subjective; however, goals are binary. The ball either crossed the line or it didn’t, and this can absolutely be decided by a computer.

3. Let’s just get better referees

I have read many a comment on goal-line technology news demanding the need for better referees. I’ll be brutally honest here: this argument is the worst. Referees in top-level national leagues all must rise through the ranks to become Grade 1 officials in a highly selective process. Referees all start at Grade 8 and must pass written exams, fitness tests, and game assessments in order to move to the next level. Those that make it to Grade 1 are the best referees in the entire world. Bad referees do not exist in the EPL, La Liga, MLS, etc. Yes, referees make incorrect calls all the time, but I do not believe “getting better refs” will solve the problem. Even with impeccable positioning, a ref is bound to miss some calls – especially, if it’s in a crowded penalty box and the ball barely crosses the line. Let us leave these incredibly difficult calls to a less fallible source: technology.

 What do you think? Does the World Cup need goal-line technology, and more importantly, is it worth the cost?


Category: Rules and Referees Technology and Soccer Uncategorized

About Morganne Gagne

Morganne is a senior studying biomedical engineering and very happy to be taking the Soccer Politics course to round our her humanities requirement. Soccer has played an integral role in her life, though not as a player. She has refereed for over 8 years, in levels of play ranging from competitive youth leagues to Division 3 college matches to running the line on a semi-professional women's game.

9 thoughts on “Goal-Line Technology: A Source of Cost and Controversy

  1. Jayetri Talukder

    It seems to me that The Goal-Line Technology is very effective to determine whether or not a goal had been scored. Hope it will work more perfectly in future to reduce goal related conflicts.

  2. Pingback: Goal Line Technology Vs. Referees – futbolnews

  3. nick

    for an event so big like the world cup, goal line technology is defenitly worth having

  4. Gilda Doria

    Do I think that that GLT should implemented for soccer? Probably not. I think goal line technology would take away from the essence of the game. There are so many times during club games that my center back would volley the ball out of our own goal off a corner kick after it had already crossed the goal line. She would then push the back line up and make it seem like nothing ever happened. There is an aspect of gamesmanship that GLT would take away. If we were to implement this technology, where would we be headed next? Instant replay for fouls? We need to the keep the game beautiful. To keep it beautiful is keeping it as it originally was created, without technology.

  5. Balser

    I think that clear connections can be made between GLT and the debate over instant replay in baseball. Recently the MLB has allowed a small number of plays to be reviewed, much like GLT would allow. The same arguments appear, both with the pace of the game as well as the “If you give a league GLT”, and in many places continue to appear. However, I think that the League has done a great job thus far at remaining steadfast in not allowing their instant replay to extend further than they decided when instituting it. I think that the same success could be experienced in soccer as well. While human error of the referees will always be a part of any game, in my opinion when it comes to scoring goals, it should be eliminated if possible.

  6. June Zhang

    I think I’m torn on my support for GLT. I see it’s clear advantages as you have nicely outlined in this post. It will give a clear and definite decision on goals which have the potential to significantly impact a game, a tournament, a team’s success and subsequently, history. The fact that the implementation of this technology has the ability to alter the course of soccer history is crazy to think about. On the other hand, GLT opens the doors for other technologies to enter the game. While you make the argument that the soccer world will handle these advancements as they happen, they may detract from the human simplicity of the game. Drawing from the coverage of pelada in Brazil as the “beautiful street game”, soccer is one of few sports that requires little to no equipment to be played. Soccer is just as much of a street game as it is a professional sport. The implementation of GLT and future technology threatens this. It is inevitable for advancements in technology to impact soccer and I think they have the opportunity to really change the game for the better, but I also think it may jeopardize the simplistic culture soccer is so deeply rooted in.

  7. Daniel Carp

    Am I in favor of goal line technology? I would tend to say yes because of the recent string of controversial calls that have impacted global competitions. But I am definitely conflicted on the issue. What is the difference between a referee missing a ball crossing the goal line and a referee missing an offside call to allow or disallow a goal? I hate to get into slippery slope arguments here, but I think if you’re going to allow one form of replay review in soccer you have to open yourself up to all of the other series of events that hinge on moments of subjective judgement. One of the things I love about soccer is the human element—even the fact that referees can make a call that blows a game. In a sport that relies on its free-flowing and organic nature, allowing stoppages of play would damage one of the essential tenets of soccer. Whether or not that is worth the potential of a missed goal or two is up to your interpretation.

  8. Bryan Silverman

    I love the addition of goal line technology. I think that your first point is extremely valid, as goals happen so infrequently in the game that missing one or calling one incorrectly would be an atrocity (and it obviously does happen). Someone might say it takes the “human aspect” out of the game, but I think with offsides, penalties, etc. the human aspect of refereeing is still an integral part of the game. Furthermore, your point about getting one of these calls wrong and having so much money ride on these games is interesting as well. While it is obviously important not to simply rely on making money, it is important to consider this aspect of the game as it is the reason that it is such a major global obsession.

  9. Pingback: Soccer Politics - The Politics of Football | Goal-Line Technology: A Source of Cost and Controversy

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