The problem has been around as long as football. When the ball deflects from the frame of the goal how is it possible to judge accurately whether it has crossed the vertical plane or not? For most of history the only possible response was that there is no way of knowing for sure. In many cases at least one of the players might be close enough, and the movement of the ball either static or slow enough at some point, to be sure one way or the other, but unless the referee is able to share his positioning the point is moot. Occasionally, a sharp-eyed referee, with a high opinion of his own eyesight and grasp of parallax, would award the goal, but common sense would have suggested to most that the only possible decision was that play be waved on.
In days gone by, even the most diehard supporters were apt to be philosophical when their team was denied a goal in these circumstances, since there was no recourse. Matches have been televised for a long time now but for most of that time the images have not been sharp enough, nor the cameras numerous and well-placed enough to lend certitude to the call. But now, of course, things are about to change. At last, technology promises to act as an infallible arbiter for these decisions and of course the stakes are so high these days that it seems inevitable that we will see it deployed just as soon as the method is approved.
As is always the case, when the use of technology for decision making is proposed, resistance from some quarters is met. UEFA president Michel Platini is not a fan, and recently reiterated his opposition. He is not alone, and has never been so, but the temperature is rising all the time – Just ask Frank Lampard or any or the Tottenham players or Andy Carroll. Their view is likely to be as un-philosophical as it is trenchant. Recent reports suggest that “Hawk-Eye” technology will be installed very soon. Testing was conducted recently and many of the game’s top officials believe that it could be implemented by the 2013-2014 season. The question remains how fans, perhaps surrounding pubs’ projectors screens, will respond when this technological development engenders or destroys their joy at a team’s win.
Interestingly and not surprisingly, this kind of initiative is being pursued globally, and in at least two cases, with a fresh twist. The hoped for fix to Goal-line controversy is essentially a static one, based as it is on the photography of movement of an object in relation to a stationary plane. In the US, at least two companies are working on ways to install a sensor in the ball itself which will register when a wired plane is broken (suitable for Gridiron) or passed, in the case of Soccer. In Australia, Google has teamed up with Sherrin, maker of balls for the Australian Rules code, to create a wired ball called gBall. Its sensors measure the force applied to it by the kicker and plots its path and distance carried. It sounds as though it provides useful and interesting data that could assist coaches and players but it does not seem to be designed to aid judgement regarding whether is has crossed a goal line. Maybe the Aussies are just happy to leave that to the men in white.