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Why Hawk-Eye, Not GoalRef Needs to be Adopted For Goal-Line Technology

IMG 1793 600x448 Why Hawk Eye, Not GoalRef Needs to be Adopted For Goal Line Technology

Since Euro 2012 ended, I’ve been watching Wimbledon. Not the football club, but the tennis championship. For someone like me, who eats, lives and breathes Premier League football practically 365 days a year, it’s been a nice change to watch a different sport. But even while trying to take a little reprieve from the busy news cycle of Premier League soccer, it’s impossible to escape it completely.

On Thursday, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) — the body that determines the rules of international football — approved the adoption of goal line technology. The different leagues and associations around the world have a choice of using GoalRef or Hawk-Eye, two completely different technologies that calculate the same result — to determine whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not. For Premier League viewers, we’ll see it implemented for the start of the 2013-14 season. Or, if we’re lucky, at the beginning of 2013.

After watching Wimbledon for the past week, it’s obvious how much of an impact that Hawk-Eye technology has over the game. The technology has been used to improve the accuracy of calls, to determine whether a ball was in or out. Watching tennis, it seems like such a natural part of the game and doesn’t interfere with the viewing or playing experience.

But the Hawk-Eye technology that will be used in soccer won’t mimic the one used in tennis. When a tennis player challenges a call in tennis, the Hawk-Eye technology displays on a large screen where the ball bounced, helping everyone see the trajectory of the ball as well as exactly where the ball bounced, down to the accuracy of one millimeter.

Unfortunately with the Hawk-Eye technology that has been approved by IFAB, we won’t be able to see the Hawk-Eye virtual animation. Instead, if the ball crosses the line, the referee will be alerted within one second with a message on his wrist-watch that reads ‘Goal.’ That’s still much better than relying on humans to determine whether the ball crossed the line or not, but there are still issues with both technologies.

While Hawk-Eye uses a combination of different cameras to determine the trajectory of the ball, GoalRef uses a magnetic field and a magnetic chip in the ball to determine whether the ball crosses the line or not. As with Hawk-Eye, the referee will be alerted whether the ball has crossed the line or not within one second, on his wrist-watch.

Despite the progress that will be made by using technology to make the game decisions more accurate, I can guarantee that we will still have controversy. Even with Hawk-Eye or GoalRef, we will still have calls made where the TV replays will show that the decision made appears to be incorrect. That’s because the cameras used for the TV replay won’t be the same as those used for Hawk-Eye. That’s key because the TV cameras used for replays could tell a different story entirely, making us believe that the ball did or didn’t cross the line based on the different angles that are used. We’ve all seen it before in games where we were convinced the ball didn’t cross the line, only to see another angle on replay which showed that the ball did cross the line. But the important factor to remember is that we will base our belief over what we actually see on television, which could be different than the GoalRef or Hawk-Eye ruling.

I believe that GoalRef or Hawk-Eye will be more accurate, but because the ruling made by the GoalRef or Hawk-Eye technology isn’t transparent to us, we will have to believe that the technology and the referee made the correct call.

As soon as the first major controversy happens where the TV replays will differ from the goal-line technology ruling, there will be a cry for more transparency. That’s why I believe that the different leagues and associations should use the Hawk-Eye technology instead of GoalRef. There will come the day in the not too distant future where the IFAB, leagues and football associations will be under pressure to show the virtual animation on the screens in the stadiums and on television, so that we see what the technology sees — and there can be no second guessing. That day will come, and because Hawk-Eye provides that technology while GoalRef does not, that’s why I believe Hawk-Eye is the way to go.

Another advantage of using Hawk-Eye for goal-line technology is that when the day comes for the virtual animations to be shown on screen, it adds to the excitement of the match. The virtual animations can be shown almost immediately after a goal-line incident happens, so it won’t detract from the game. If you’ve watched a Wimbledon match before, you’ll see how the Hawk-Eye virtual animations gets the crowd fired up, hearing them clap in unison to cheer on the decision. That would be something that some traditionalists may cringe about, but if the ultimate decision is an accurate one, it deserves to be applauded because it’s bringing accuracy and fairness back to the game.


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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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