Goal-line testing nears conclusion
In less than two months time, members of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will meet in Kiev on 2 July for a Special Meeting to potentially make an historic decision; whether to approve the usage of Goal-line Technology.
In a process that began with eight companies in September 2011, today marked the beginning of the second test phase with one of the two remaining companies - Hawk-Eye - at Southampton FC's St Mary's Stadium.
Whilst the rain and wind buffeted members of EMPA - the independent test institute - and representatives of IFAB on the pitch, 50 journalists looked on from the sidelines, getting their first close-up look at a 'live' test.
With a ball-shooting machine placed 6m from the goal-line, the media observed the 'Impact Wall' test. The size and shape of the wall is similar to that of a goalkeeper (190cm tall), with EMPA seeking to determine the dynamic accuracy of the Hawk-Eye technology. The wall starts out in front of the goal-line and then is moved backwards in increments, until finally it is behind the goal-line. The ball hits the impact wall at speeds between 50-120 km/h, with High Definition cameras determining whether the ball has crossed the line or not. If the shot is a 'goal', a vibration and visual signal is sent to a watch, worn by the testers, within one second.
Rolf Staempli and Michael Koster are two of EMPA's test team, and revealed that since the beginning of the test process last autumn, they have overseen between 3000-4000 test shots, using High Definition cameras at 2000 frames per second.
Hawk-Eye's involvement in sport currently sees their technology utilised in tennis tournaments across the world, and Steve Carter, Managing Director of the Basingstoke-based company explained how they are now seeking to develop a "Rolls-Royce system" for football.
"We have invested a large amount of money since 2007 in developing our GLT system which utilises 14 cameras, seven at each end of the stadium" said Carter.
"Tennis is different to football, not least due to the trajectory of the ball, but also the motion of players within the goal area. Whilst we have been very successful in tennis, this is an exceptionally rigorous and scientific testing process for our football system. It feels like we're in the semi-final, trying to get through to the final."
Neale Barry (England), William Campbell (Northern Ireland), John Deakin (Wales) and John Fleming (Scotland) are all former referees who now head up their respective refereeing departments. In addition, they form part of the IFAB Technical Sub-Committee.
On Monday in a Scottish Premier League fixture, Hibernian were awarded a goal when replays subsequently showed that the shot had actually hit the crossbar and bounced down in front of the goal-line. Responding to questions from the gathered journalists, Fleming explained: "Officials are not educated to make a guess, they make a decision in split-second timing because they genuinely believe it is the right decision.
"In this incident on Monday, the decision was ultimately wrong, and if Goal-line Technology is approved, it will give the officials a huge help with taking a pivotal decision that is not always clear for the human eye in real time to detect."
In March 2013 when the IFAB Annual General Meeting takes place, it will be the 128th occasion that the 'custodians' of the Laws of the Game will have met. Although only a 'veteran' of seven such meetings, The FA's Head of Refereeing Neale Barry explained: "In the last 18 months there has been a total change of attitude and emphasis of the IFAB towards goal-line technology after the Frank Lampard goal at the last World Cup.
"After such a rigorous testing process - which during Phase 2 will also include training tests, laboratory tests and 'live' matches - we are really hopeful that come 2 July, one or both companies (the other being GoalRef, who will commence their Phase 2 testing later this month) will have met the pass criteria.
"We can understand people wondering why if they can put a man on the moon, why can't a technical solution be found for GLT. But Phase 1 of the tests, where six of the eight companies failed, has proven this is not as easy as people think."
The final word went to William Campbell who in March attended his 15th IFAB meeting. "The IFAB is a very conservative organisation, and it has only changed the Laws of the Game over 127 years when it has felt it is for the betterment of the game across the world..for fans, players, everyone involved. "People might say a positive decision on 2 July is a chance to 'make history', but we are fully aware of the responsibility we hold."
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