KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING — Finally, after a decade of research and pushing at closed doors, Hawk-Eye has broken through all the conservative frontiers of football and won the right of presence for its goal-line technology.
England’s Premier League has confirmed it will be the first of the European ‘Big Five’ – comprising also France, Germany, Italy and Spain – to take a historic step into the future.
The company has won the tender to provide its system to the Premier League next season and for the Football Association at Wembley with its Community Shield curtain-raiser in early August.
Last week world federation FIFA preferred the German company GoalControl for the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June after having trialled both Hawk-Eye and the German/Danish GoalRef at last December’s Club World Cup in Japan.
The Premier League’s meeting today backed Hawk-Eye whose technology is to be installed in all the top division’s stadia over the summer at a cost of £250,000 per ground.
Dr Paul Hawkins, who led Hawk-Eye’s development work, said: “This means fans can go to a match much more confident that the destiny is in the hands of the players. This doesn’t happen very often but clearly it’s very fundamental when it does. It’s the same as the linesman putting up his flag, it’s as quick as that. Our technology is to ensure that such decisions are correct.”
Earlier this week FA general secretary Alex Horne said: “I always thought it was an ideal piece of technology to allow into the game . . . There are occasions when GLT is needed and we’ve seen them here at Wembley, we’ve seen them in World Cups, we’ve seen them 11 or 12 times in the Premier League this season alone.
“So technology that says ‘yes, the ball has crossed the line’ and lets the referee know makes an awful lot of sense to me – particularly where it’s a knock-out situation, incorrect decisions have less opportunity to even themselves out over a season.”
The decision comes in a week when the goal-line assistants, human-eye system preferred by UEFA president Michel Platini came under heavy fire after a tie-turning failure to spot offside in the Champions League quarter-final between Borussia Dortmund and Malaga.
Hawk-Eye, an English company which was sold to Sony two years ago, was preferred over GoalControl.
It has long provided its camera-based service to tennis and cricket competitions and has been a leader in the promotion of goal-line technology since before the law-making International Board had put GLT testing on ice after a flawed trial at the 2007 World Youth Cup in Colombia.
Everything changed after FIFA president Sepp Blatter then felt the full weight of international ridicule after Frank Lampard’s phantom goal in England’s defeat by Germany in Bloemfontein in the 2010 World Cup finals.
The Chelsea man’s shot in England’s second round tie hit the underside of the bar, ricocheted down behind the line then bounced out. The Uruguayan referee waved play on and England lost 4-1. Blatter, until then an opponent of technology on the grounds that it infringed the ‘universality’ of the game, flip-flopped overnight.
Applicants were invited to test again and, on a historic July 5 last year, Hawkeye and GoalRef were approved for use by the International Board law-makers after stringent testing including the essential demand that the referee must receive a confirmatory signal within one second of the ball crossing the line.
Two weeks earlier Blatter’s desire to see GLT approved had been underlined by his insistence that it was a “necessity” after the Ukraine-England incident at Euro 2012. Marko Devic had been denied an equaliser after John Terry hooked the ball out from beyond the goal-line. Hungarian assistant Istvan Vad – employed as a goal-line assistant under the rival and experimental five-officials system – could not have been better placed.
No matter that Ukraine should have been pulled up for offside earlier in the move: Blatter had been handed the final bullet to shoot down any remaining opponents of GLT (including Platini).
Thus both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef were used during the Club World Cup in Japan but neither was needed to resolve an ‘over-the-line’ issue.
Independent testers assured FIFA that both systems functioned as effectively as could be ascertained and a tender was opened to fulfil Blatter’s promise that GLT would be installed in Brazil for both this June’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.
FIFA will not use the goal-line assistants system pioneered in European international competition by UEFA and taken up in top-division competition in Italy and Brazil.
The simple reason is that the match officials at the Confederations Cup and World Cup will be drawn from all around the world and few of the non-Europeans have significant experience of the system.
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