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?