Sometimes you have to wonder if humanity would ever get anything done if it weren’t for disasters.
It took a massive hurricane for New Orleans –a city stupidly built below sea level on a river delta– to actually spend any money to build adequate levies to prevent rising river/lake/sea water from ravaging the city. Japan needed to have a nuclear meltdown at one of their power plants before they thought, “Hey, maybe it would be a good idea to build impenetrable sea walls around our nuclear power plants!” Apparently, reacting after a disaster is the only way to save face.
And just as in the real world, the powers that be in soccer need to have their lack of action blow up in their faces before they decide to go about making needed changes in the game.
Refereeing has been the bane of FIFA’s existence the last year and a half. Bad decision after horrible decision, missed call after botched call, affected game after ruined game, the overall quality of supposed “top-level” referees in the game seems to have taken a massive dip. Some high-profile recent examples include:
- The France-Ireland World Cup qualification handball incident.
- Frank Lampard’s un-awarded goal in South Africa.
- Robin van Persie’s dismissal for shooting a ball after the whistle.
- Barcelona escaping any punishment for all of their diving during the Champions League clásicos.
- Tottenham falling to Chelsea on an offsides goal and a goal that never crossed the line (see above).
Now to be fair, and I have been pretty harsh to the lot on this blog, all of the blame can’t be shouldered by the referees. Yes, some of the poor performances are definitely their fault: not being in the right place on the pitch to see the action, being inconsistent in the calls being made, or just plain making the wrong call. But a lot of this can also be blamed on the dramatic increase in the speed of the modern game. It can be awfully difficult to make a judgement call on a possible infraction that took place in a matter of milliseconds.
Regardless of the reason for the poor quality of refereeing, it’s clear these blind mice need some sort of help. And luckily for us, these events over the last year have finally forced FIFA’s dirty little hand.
Last week, FIFA announced a 2012 deadline for finding a suitable solution to the much maligned goal line technology debate. A long over due pledge, goal line technology is likely the easiest to solve of the issues plaguing the organization (At least they’re finally caving on one issue). And just in time, as it’s an issue that has recently severely impacted the results of some very major games.
So in light of such an important announcement, I thought it might be worthwhile to take some time to look at some of the contenders proposed to solve FIFA’s big problem.
CTRUS by agent
Purely conceptual (I think), we’re still a long way from seeing CTRUS as a viable solution for FIFA… and for multiple reasons.
- A functioning model has yet to appear.
- It requires no inflation, meaning by definition, it’s not a ball FIFA would approve. Massive rule changes would need to be instituted just for this mechanical ball to earn the coveted official “FIFA Approved” logo.
- It’s way too cool for an archaic, old-fashioned organization to adopt.
What’s awesome about the CTRUS concept is that it’s not just the referee who will receive notice of a potential goal: everyone will. Thanks to the ball’s on-board GPS, RFID and multiple POV cameras, the ball will be able to determine its location and signal a goal or ball out-of-touch by changing its colors with LED lighting.
All bad ass ideas, but all assuming that Agen can actually get the thing to work.
The Five-Man System
Everyone should be fairly familiar with FIFA’s only somewhat-sanctioned form of goal line technology, where an extra official is placed just behind and to the left of each goal mouth. Let’s first diligently declare that this is not a “technology” per se… unless the extra officials are some form cyborgs. And to be honest, this solution is really just four extra eyes to watch a ball from a closer angle.
Problem is, I don’t think that these guys provide that much additional value.
Since these guys are already qualified as professional referees, they’re allowed not only rule on goals, but also on other infringements in the penalty area. Sadly, I can’t think of one occasion where I’ve seen them call anything. Secondly, there’s still plenty of room for human error. In fact, there’s twice as much room for human error. So there’s really no possible way that this “technology” could even meet FIFA’s own 100% accuracy standards.
A relative unknown, at least as far as the media are concerned, Goalminder is a solution that involves placing fiber-optic, high-speed cameras in the posts and crossbar of each goal. Very reminiscent of the NHL’s downward facing camera used to verify goals, check out the video below for a horribly drawn out (and ADD distracted) demonstration:
One major problem with this solution is the time it would take to make a decision with cameras. Someone would need to watch the video, possibly frame by frame, and every angle could potentially be obscured by an errant arm, leg, foot or body. Are the referees supposed to pause the game as they wait for or make a decision? Who watches the video replays? In reality, there are more questions that actual answers with regards to Goalminder.
remember the Sputnik ball that I had stupidly propped up on my site a few weeks back that purported to be the official 2014 World Cup ball? Well, as I said in the story, it’s not the next ball but rather an old prototype utilizing the “Cairos GLT” technology in adidas’ Teamgeist II.
A joint venture between adidas and Cairos Technologies, this system utilizes a series of in-ball sensors that, when the ball completely crosses the goal line, would immediately notify the referee that a goal should be awarded. It requires the posts and bars to transmit electromagnetic fields that would be measured by the ball’s microchips to determine its location on the pitch.
An earlier version of this system was demoed at the 2005 U-17 World Cup, but apparently wasn’t able to make the grade. With a bad taste already in FIFA’s mouth, adidas and co hopefully did their homework a bit better this time around in order to convince anyone that it’s a viable option.
Vegum/Tag-Heuer’s Goal Line Technology (GLT)
Cleverly named product, isn’t it? The famous watchmaker’s system was first developed ahead of 2010 Olympic Hockey tournament, and is currently solely marketed for use in hockey. It utilizes a centrally located microchip within the ball to gauge its position with regards to an electromagnetic field emanating from the posts, crossbar, and goal line.
Other than this link to a promotional video, I can’t dig up much on Vegum and Tag Heuer’s innovative collaboration.
Hawk-Eye is a computer program that utilizes a set of 6 high-speed cameras at both ends of the stadium, each providing a different angle on the goal line action. The computerized brain then analyzes all of the video feeds to determine the trajectory, speed, and exact location at any given time. Even in situations when the ball is obstructed from every view, the system’s historical database can make accurate assumptions about the ball’s location, based on where it isn’t and historical data. So for those not able to follow, the system can “see” the ball even when it can’t.
The company and Premier League claimed in 1997 that they had the technology ready for in-game implementation, but FIFA was too busy turning a blind eye to the situation at that point. It’s proven to be invaluable in the sports that currently use the technology, which should lend plenty of credence to using it in goal-line decisions.
Others companies (such as Swiss watch-maker Longines) are reportedly submitting proposals, but they’ve kept their brainchildren hidden away in the depths of the internet where I can’t find them.
It is also important to remember that this isn’t the first time FIFA have attempted to tackle the goal line technology debate. Back in February, FIFA put ten solutions through the wringer only to have them all fail to meet the stringent accuracy standards demanded by the
ruling regime governing body. And that begs to question whether or not any of the possible solutions listed above will even be able to make the grade.
For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it does. FIFA and UEFA have spent too much time with their heads in the sand, and their precious game is suffering tremendously for it.