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The facts about goal-line technology

22 March 2011

Goal-line technology would tell us if Garcia's effort crossed the line, and would not take "5 minutes" as Robbie Savage suggests (Getty Images)

Robbie Savage is attempting to forge a career as a top pundit, but he’s already begun to demonstrate some of the ignorance also shown by many ex-professionals in the media.

A couple of months back he argued against zonal marking, a debate for another time but for now let’s assume it’s a misguided opinion (and it is). Last night he opened up a debate on goal-line technology, and I was shocked at how uninformed he was, and wondered if most footballers are equally unaware.

I’ve selected three tweets from Savage (links: one, two and three):

I wouldn’t want goalline technology ! Even with it sometimes you just cannot tell could take up to 5 mins unless it was plainly obvious !

The game is the best game in the world some you get some you don’t !

I’d prefer referees and assistant refs to explain themselves after games !!

Although a significant element of this blog is to analyse beliefs put out by the media, I was still shocked to read that Savage was blissfully unaware of the advances in goal-line technology that he refers to in the first tweet.

What Savage appears to be against is video technology used for goal-line decisions, and on this point I agree; video evidence is often inconclusive. But recent discussion has not been about using video replays, it’s been centred on the use of Hawk-Eye-style technology.

Indeed, earlier this month the International Football Association Board (IFAB) ruled the following:

The IFAB received a presentation on the Goal Line Technology tests conducted by EMPA between 7-13 February at the Home of FIFA. The IFAB heard that none of the ten companies were successful in meeting the criteria set out by the IFAB Annual Business Meeting on 20 October 2010, and therefore agreed to a further one year testing period.

It’s widely accepted that video replays are insufficient, and the IFAB are keen to address and use more sophisticated technology. Savage’s argument that it “could take up to 5 minutes” to make a decision is entirely misinformed; Hawk-Eye have said the referee could be notified virtually instantly:

The IFAB has stipulated that an “instant” system must be implemented: Hawk-Eye will provide an answer is less than 0.5 seconds. As soon as a ball has been tracked across the goal line, the central computer will transmit an automatic signal directly to the referee to inform him whether or not a goal has been scored. This information can be communicated to a watch or an ear piece as required.

In an open letter to FIFA, the company even reacted angrily to Sepp Blatter’s suggestion that it would take 5 seconds for the referee to find out whether the ball has crossed the line. They also keenly address misconceptions about their cameras being obscured, the rigorousness of their tests and the 3D nature of the goal-line. Hawk-Eye claim their technology to be 100% efficient; other companies are also attempting to woo the IFAB.

Savage goes on to suggest that referees explaining their decisions after matches is mutually exclusive to goal-line technology; that is he sees one as a replacement for another given he “prefers” the former. This view is baffling and makes little sense; Savage wishes to tie the hands of the officials by limiting technology, and then beat them with a stick after matches when they get decisions wrong.

Savage’s philosophical argument of “the game is the best game in the world some you get some you don’t” doesn’t really hold given his confrontational style towards referees.

Provided the IFAB are satisfied, goal-line technology should definitely be implemented in the sport. Contrary to Savage and presumably others’ beliefs, the technology is instant and accurate, and referees appear to be in favour of it.

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