Goal-Line Technology: Crossing Too Many Lines For FIFA?



1992. The year that saw FIFA introduce the biggest change to the laws of football since laws had began: the back pass rule.

It had taken over 50 years for the head governing body to add the rule that seems so simple and straightforward and adds so much to today’s game.

Goal-line technology is surely one of those rules that also seems so simple and straightforward and if properly implemented would no doubt add as much to the footballing world as the back pass rule ever did.

But the International Football Association Board’s decision not to include the innovation in this year’s World Cup, saying that “technology should not enter into the game, Let's keep the game of football as it is," is a major setback for the technology’s future in football and raises the major question:  Why are FIFA so afraid to join the technological age, when so many other sports have, to great effect?

The question about the inclusion of goal-line technology began to be raised in 2005. It was in a Premier League tie between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Going into the final minutes of the game it was 0-0 when, midfielder Pedro Mendes hit a hopeful shot from the half-way line. United keeper Roy Carroll fumbled the catch, allowing it to go over the line before he could claw it away.

However, because the referee or the linesman were nowhere near the ball at the time, and therefore didn’t see it, they couldn’t award the goal. Though it was a game of no real significance, it was still a major decision with a clear result that wasn’t given.  The Football Association immediately called for some form of system to be brought in to eradicate any future complications.

 So Fifa turned to a “smartball”system, manufactured by Adidas. This system used a football with a microchip embedded within it that would send a signal to the referee if it crossed a sensor going through the goal. Initially the reception was positive by all. FIFA used it in an under 17 world championships that took place in Peru with much talk of, if a success, the technology being used at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But, according to FIFA president Sepp Blatter:

“We did different tests at the Under-17 World Cup in Peru but the evidence wasn't clear so we will carry out trials in junior competitions in 2007," Blatter said.

“We will then use it at the 2007 World Club Championship and offer its use at other FIFA competitions."

 However the championship came and passed and by March 2008, Blatter rejected the system, insisting the technology was only “95 per cent accurate”, which meant it couldn’t be used.  It was in the same year that UEFA president Michael Platini instigated the trial of two extra officials to be placed behind the goal which would be present in the next season’s competition of the Europa League.

Flash-forward to 2010, and hours after the decision made by the Fifa backed International Football Association Board, an FA Cup quarter-final between Portsmouth and Birmingham City  saw another incident,a Liam Ridgewell header that crossed the line missed by match officials (go to2.47) at a critical time in the game.

After the game, Alex McLeish voiced his frustration at IFAB’s verdict saying:

“They're doing their officials a disservice,

“I know you can't stop every part of the game but certainly for key decisions in a major competition like the FA Cup, your chances of getting to semi-finals and finals are few and far between for a little club like us,” he said.

An official who does feel like he has been done a disservice is referee Mike Dean. A referee who has covered FA Cup finals, international matches as well as officiating Europa League matches with the trial system is fully supportive of the technology:

“I think, as referees we all want goal-line technology to be honest with you, there have been many incidents over the last couple of years and obviously as so recently as Portsmouth and Birmingham in the cup the other week.

“We all think it would benefit the game but we can’t lobby to get the goal-line technology, it’s got to come from FIFA and UEFA and at the moment are quite happy to stick with human error.”

Dean also points to the monetary issue that goal technology brings with it:

“I think because technology hasn’t been used yet, I think they are a bit apprehensive whether to start using it or not, I also think the financial side of it, if you’re going to use it in Champion’s League, you got to use it in the Europa league football, Premier League, every single league.

“You can’t have it in the Premier League and not have it in League 1 or League 2 and financial wise; I don’t think the clubs lower down could afford to pay for it.”

So maybe FIFA are right. Maybe goal-line technology can’t work because as Blatter said “''The application of modern technologies can be very costly, and therefore not applicable on a global level, the game must be played in the same way no matter where you are in the world.”

But cricket is at a global level. Rugby is at a global level. They use technology within their games and though this technology is not used at all levels of the sport, it is still used. In the biggest competitions. And it works. And without fuss or complaint from the lower levels of their respective sports who don’t use it.

Football is the biggest sport in the world, it is too big not to be at it’s very best. Referees, Managers, Players and Fans. We are all in unified agreement.

  Fifa...Give goal-line technology a go.




The game at Wembley Stadium was perilously tied at 2-2 going into extra time. When, with eleven minutes of extra time gone, Alan Ball put in a cross and Geoff Hurst swiveled and shot from close range. The ball hit the underside of the cross bar and bounced down, apparently on or just over the line and was cleared. The referee Gottfried Dienst was uncertain if it had been a goal and consulted his linesman, Tofik Bakhramov from the USSR, who in a moment of drama indicated that it was. As they had no common language, the Swiss referee awarded the goal to the home team. The goal is still discussed today and through computer reconstruction, the Engineering Department at Oxford University concluded that the ball did not cross the line entirely.



After a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, the second leg got off to a flyer. With less than four minutes gone, Milan Baros chased a long ball from Steven Gerrard and was flattened by Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper. Luis Garcia was following up, lifting the ball towards goal. William Gallas made a desperate clearance from on the line but the goal was awarded anyway. Television replays showed that the ball had in fact not crossed the line fully and Liverpool went on to secure the victory before beating AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul to lift the famous trophy.



The Group D clash was a tight contest, and Spain thought they that had got the advantage as Michel Gonzalez’s shot from the edge of the penalty, hit the crossbar before crossing over the line. But Australian referee Chris Bambridge did not allow it. Brazil went on to win the game with a single Socrates goal, going on to winning the group but lost to France in the quarter finals.



A routine game between two teams battling for promotion saw one of the bizzarest goals “that wasn’t” ever. A corner from Reading’s Stephen Hunt, Noel Hunt header towards goal was blocked but Hunt managed to get a second bite out of it by putting it across goal. After several attempts by Reading players to score, the referee Stuart Atwell, after being signaled by the linesman Nigel Bannister, gave a free-kick. But the linesman was actually signaling for goal which Atwell let stand even though the ball nowhere near crossed the line. It ended 2-2, leaving Watford’s boss Adrian Boothroyd furious saying “I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s like a UFO landing.”



This Premier League fixture will go down in history for a moment of inexplicable madness that started the whole goal-line technology debate. Pedro Mendes’ smack towards goal from just behind the half way line was unimaginable, Roy Carroll’s spilling Mendes’ shot was inconcievable, scooping the ball away when it had already travelled two feet over the line was hysterical, the referee Mark Clattenburg and linesman Rob Lewis missing it and thus not awarding a goal even though every single fan in Old Trafford did...Priceless.

More on Geekweek


Sign in to comment with your TypePad, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo or OpenID.