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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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  1. David

    July 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    The NFL changed it’s instant replay policy recently- starting this year, the fans in the stadium will be able to see the same views the referee sees during a challenge-before they weren’t but the people at home got to see them. I think that’ll be what happens here eventually- the replays will eventually be available to the broadcasters then the stadium crowds- and if they want to try it somewhere first, I suspect MLS would be willing to do it (I think they’ll introduce the technology itself next year)…

  2. Andy

    July 9, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I think you’re right Gaffer. Without the public(aka the spectators, whether it be the people at the game or people watching on TV) being able to actually see for themselves that the ball did, or did not cross the line, they will have to trust the official. And we all know how eager everyone is to trust the officials. In my opinion, when an incident occurs involving a goal line decision, the game should continue to play as per the result that is indicated to the official. After such result, and while the play is still ongoing, Hawkeye should display their “reasoning” (aka the video of the trajectory of the ball and where is was in relation to the goal line) for the call that it made, on the big screens at the stadiums and on the broadcasts to all that are watching. That way there would be no interruption in play and everyone could see the proof that the ball either did or did not cross the line. This should appease all parties involved.

  3. David

    July 8, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I believe that the use of technology will evolve over time. The first step is to use it in its first iteration and as time goes on it will get better. Let’s just celebrate that at least they are going to use technology in some form.

  4. Mufc77

    July 8, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Gaffer I’m not familar with either of these two types of technology or even exactly how they are going to be used so what happens when during the process of reviewing a goal line incident they see that Andy Carroll clearly used his hand to push the ball into the net on purpose, the ref clearly misses the handball but on review it’s clear he handled it but it also clear all of the ball crosses the line.

    Does the goal count because if not you would be opening up a can of worms. In other words even though the refs sees a missed call he can’t over rule it with the use of either if these two different types of technology.

    • The Gaffer

      July 8, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Good question. The ref won’t be able to see any video replay. All he’ll know is whether the ball crossed the line or not. If he nor any of his officials saw a hand ball, and the wristwatch says it’s a goal, then the referee would award a goal.

      Here’s more info plus videos about the two different goal line technologies:

      The Gaffer

      • Mufc77

        July 8, 2012 at 9:18 am

        So they would have to give the right call on a wrong call. I can only imagine the drama this will cause.

      • ridgemore

        July 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

        Well, if the technology is the final word on whether the ball crossed the line, the officials don’t have to watch for that but can focus on hand balls and fouls etc in the box. No one will ever accept the officials over ruling the technology on a scored goal if the issue is whether the ball went in.

  5. Dust

    July 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    The lack of transparency is ripe for controversy, the hawk eye tech is great for tennis. However, in it’s current state doesn’t deal with the same situation of multiple objects interfering with detection across a line, like the crazy goal line scramble in the Spurs vs Chelsea fa cup semi final (a pivotal point in the game).

    Now with the “extensive scientific tests” performed by FIFA they must have a solution to address any such issue, the lack of transparency does not help in understanding the workings of each system. The blurry images from cameras like the one of Terry above isn’t always definitive. For a camera to be definitive enough and take out the blur, to be accurate for review it would need to support a minimum 120 frames per second, with a minimum of a 2k progressive image.

    If a ref gets the decision of a goal using the cloak and dagger of these systems it won’t matter that it takes one second, players are still going to argue with the ref and lines man and fifth official and dispute it, which will as always make the process of moving the game along still as long as it was before. So why care if it takes 1 second? Why not use video that can be replayed once a decision as been made?

    Using replay in general allows for the ref to use it for assistance in other controversial situations that can take just a few secnds to review. Refrees could also potentially be given replays of controversial incidents during half time they may have missed, like a player diving to get a penalty (Ashley young), off the ball incidents (ivanovic punching a player in the kidneys), etc…

    These systems are limited to one function, the ball completely crossing the line between the goal posts that’s it. Seems Iike a huge waste of an opportunity to address a series of issues.

    So even if the premier league uses the technology first, what about other domestic competitions like the FA cup or league cup? They all have monetary value and European implications.

    • Mufc77

      July 8, 2012 at 8:47 am

      I’ve always been curious if the refs have access to tv replays during half time. We know managers can get access to the replays easy enough but when a ref or linesman can see at half time he blew a penalty call isn’t just human nature it will cross his mind to give a “make up call” to the other team in the second half.

  6. Matt T.

    July 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Are we concerned about seeing replays or goals being called correctly?

    Hawk-Eye has to see at least 25% of the ball to be accurate, while GoalRef has no such limitations. Personally, I would prefer GoalRef.

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