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How Soccer Can Learn A Lot From Tennis


It’s been years since I last watched a Wimbledon men’s singles tennis final on TV. By luck, it was one of the most extraordinary finals ever as Rafael Nadal narrowly defeated Roger Federer in five sets.

As a sports fan who spends the vast majority of his time watching soccer matches, there were a couple of aspects about the Wimbledon coverage that thoroughly impressed me.

First, it was a joy to listen to Wimbledon radio coverage over the internet from BBC Five Live. I’m so sick of the BBC blocking me from listening to their radio coverage of the Premier League, Champions League and international football matches due to rights restrictions.

Radio coverage of matches, especially from the BBC, adds so much drama to sports whether it’s Wimbledon or Premier League matches. Presumably Wimbledon hasn’t broken up the internet radio rights to their tennis matches so that the BBC doesn’t have to block the radio coverage for listeners outside the United Kingdom.

Second, it’s an absolute joy to see how the stodgy sport of tennis has used advances in technology to improve the game. While it’s not new to Wimbledon (it was introduced over twelve months ago), this was the first time I had a chance to watch the Hawk-Eye electronic review of controversial calls.

The way it works is simple. If a player wants to challenge a call that he believes was incorrect, a computerized animation of the call is shown on the electronic scoreboard within 30 seconds for the chair umpire, players, crowd and TV audience all to watch it live to see whether the call was correct or not.

The beauty of the technology is that it doesn’t interfere with the game because it’s so quick, it removes the controversy by proving to everyone whether a ball was in or out and it takes the pressure off the chair umpire.

While sports such as cricket and tennis are stereotypically perceived as being stodgy, conservative and behind the times, the reality is that soccer is the sport that is reluctant to change and more rooted in tradition for tradition’s sake. It’s time for soccer to grow up and for FIFA to begin using technology where it’s needed most. Let’s start with whether a ball has crossed a goal-line or not and then take it from there.

Here’s a video to show how impressive the Hawk-Eye technology is:


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  1. damir

    July 7, 2008 at 8:27 am

    yea… if soccer was a ONE v ONE game…

  2. The Gaffer

    July 7, 2008 at 5:57 am


    The RSS feed is working fine by me. Try it again at

    The Gaffer

  3. Sacked

    July 7, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Seems that your RSS feed is busted. Also, my first comment… great site!

  4. betsy's bolton bum baster

    July 6, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    the hawk-eye system is not perfect either. that is why it should not always be relied upon, only when there is a challenge or question on the ruling.

  5. betsy's bolton bum baster

    July 6, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    of course tennis, rugby and cricket are too i didn’t say they were not. but you don’t see them played by the shear number of people as soccer. to change a certain rule in soccer, even if it affects just the professional level will be a massive and COSTLY under-taking that not all leagues, countries and federations could afford.

  6. Phil McThomas

    July 6, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I would be shocked if the system could genuinely make a call that close. Does this thing have absolutely no margin of error? Does it ever say “I don’t know”?

    A basic tenant of maths is “don’t confuse precision with accuracy”. That system looks very precise, but is it really that accurate?

  7. Matt

    July 6, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Oh, and goal-line technology has been tested, proved and doesnt interrupt the flow of the game. It would be a micro-chip in the ball, sensors in the frame of the goal which alerts the referee via his watch when the ball breaks the sensors and thus is over the goal line. Very simple but FIFA are morons.

  8. Matt

    July 6, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    “thing with soccer is it is a global game” — and tennis, rugby and cricket aren’t?!

    The least football can do is have goal-line tecnology.

    Ps. Gaffer, 30 seconds? More like 10 mate.

  9. Aaron S

    July 6, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    I totally agree.

  10. eplnfl

    July 6, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    All of the major tennis events are excellent, Aussie, French, Wimbledon, and US. Two weeks of fun, but you need to follow it closely as fan. Just jumping in on a match here and there leaves you wanting.

    The BBC gives away nothing with the online radio since Radio Wimbledon is free online with wall to wall coverage. So, no big favor for the BBC here.

    New this year for America was the multiple court coverage on demand by ESPN online on 360. Good news for most of ESPN and Comcast are in talks about adding 360 to their online menu.

    As to the replay system, it’s time that FIFA mandates it period

  11. JMB

    July 6, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I disagree. The thing I love about soccer is the ebb and flow of the game. Even if it only takes 12 or so seconds, you will still interrupt that movement. Refs are human and may make mistakes – same as players. The more you try to make the game “perfect” more more of the human eliment and character you will lose. I guess the question is whether or not it is worth it. In my mind… no.

  12. Johnny

    July 6, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Did you watch the match on NBC?

    Any thoughts on the style commentary?

  13. betsy's bolton bum baster

    July 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    thing with soccer is it is a global game and will take a massive under-taking at all relevant professional levels including rich, poor or whatever have you.

  14. Sanjay

    July 6, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Gaffer, great article mate. I agree with everything you’ve said. As a huge fan of both cricket and tennis, I just think its odd that Soccer Chiefs havent looked at how they have revolutionised those sports. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t Blatter and Platini actually meet the guy who owns Hawk Eye and then turn him down??

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