Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FIFA Licenses Goal-Line Technology Companies

Cairos Technologies AG today became the third company licensed by FIFA as a Goal-Line Technology (GLT) provider, after agreements were signed with Hawk-Eye and GoalRef in November last year. FIFA has also launched a tender for these three companies to bid to become official GLT provider for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 and 2014 FIFA World Cup, both of which will be held in Brazil.

FIFA was initially opposed to GLT, however changed its tune in Summer 2010. It was widely reported as a u-turn by football's governing body, however as regular readers of this blog will know, I believe that FIFA has played a far cleverer game. When announcing its approval for the Hawk-Eye and GoalRef systems, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) 'was keen to stress that technology will only be utilised for the goal-line and no other areas of the game'. This statement kills any other attempts to use technology to make football fairer stone dead.

FIFA could have utilised the big screens now present in nearly every professional stadium for referees to instantly review any goal-line situation, as fans watching on TV do. This would have been a cheaper solution to the problem, but one that FIFA chose not to use. Why? Because FIFA can't generate money from technology that already exists in football, but companies providing new technology will be happy to pay FIFA.

This financial motive is underlined by page 3 of FIFA's 'Application as a Licensee for GLT' document, which reads: 'The FIFA licensing scheme for goal-line technology offers two options to licensees: a non-commercial option containing the authorisation to install licensee's goal-line-technology systems worldwide which can be used in official matches, and a commercial option which additionally provides the licensee with certain marketing rights in relation to the FIFA quality programme for goal line technology to communicate its status globally as an official FIFA licensee for goal-line technology. Both options are presented by FIFA to the applicant at the initial meeting. An administration fee is payable by all licensees which contributes to the expenses incurred for the licensing/certification and registration of goal-line technology systems and installations. In addition, where the commercial option is taken, a licence fee will also be due.'

This is why I am sceptical of suggestions that FIFA has 'seen the light' regarding GLT use in football. FIFA is a shrewd commercial operator and I believe that its so-called 'u-turn' on GLT is a licensing exercise to make money. As I have stated before, GLT will only make football marginally fairer. During the 2010/11 FA Premier League season, just four incorrect goal-line decisions were logged, compared to 151 incorrect decisions on goals related to the offside rule. The evidence for this is here.

If the introduction of technology into football was about making football fairer, a better solution would be to use TV replays. Both rugby codes manage this without ruining the flow of the game, however if the football authorities are worried about this, perhaps a system similar to that used in cricket - where players are allowed to seek reviews of a decision - could be used. Football is faster flowing than cricket, so I would advocate a system where the Captain of each team is allowed to refer three decisions per game to the video referee. This would be a better solution than GLT and would also be cheaper. However it won't make money for football, so FIFA and the IFAB have ensured it will never be introduced.

Andy Brown


Friday, February 22, 2013

Media circus

The jury is still out on whether Lance Armstrong is playing a clever game. As was pointed out by Anti-Doping Denmark following Michael Rasmussen's subsequent confession to doping, Armstrong decided against confessing to anti-doping authorities, instead choosing the medium of a TV interview. In terms of the way that the anti-doping community normally operates, he has yet to 'confess' to doping.

Armstrong chose not to contest USADA's evidence against him in an arbitration hearing, after a Texas Court granted USADA's motion to dismiss his appeal against the charges. This was despite the judgment stating that arbitration is the correct forum for the issues around USADA's evidence relying on witness testimony to be discussed. 'The deficiency of USADA's charging document is of serious constitutional concern', reads the judgment. 'It appears USADA's evidence will revolve more around eyewitness testimony than lab results. The Court must presume the arbitration panel will discount the weight of those results to the extent it finds them unreliable or unpersuasive. Armstrong will be able to call into question the reliability of any witness testimony, by affidavit or otherwise, that was not subject to cross-examination'.

Yet despite this, Armstrong chose a TV interview over arbitration and did not call the evidence into question. Unsurprisingly, Oprah Winfrey did not press Armstrong on this crucial issue.

As pointed out by Kris Lines and Jon Heshka in this issue of World Sports Law Report, USADA has acted as 'judge, jury and executioner' so far in the Armstrong case. The evidence against him has not been independently examined by any authority, let alone a court of law. He has not even confessed, as such. All we have is that he says he doped in winning his seven Tour de France titles, but "the last time I crossed that line" was in 2005.

It is important that Armstrong has put a time limit on his doping activities, despite USADA's evidence suggesting he was doping as late as 2010. He has publicly stated that he wants his lifetime ban reduced to eight years, which means he would be free to compete - at the latest - in 2014.

Armstrong has rejected approaches from USADA to cooperate and has focussed instead on giving evidence to a WADA and UCI-led truth and reconciliation commission for cycling. This now looks unlikely to happen, due to ongoing arguments between the two bodies over who should establish and fund such a commission.

Armstrong also faces lawsuits from a number of individuals and companies keen to recoup money. As he hasn't confessed and USADA's evidence has been criticised by a court of law, these lawsuits may prove difficult to pin down. The most important of these is a lawsuit brought by Floyd Landis under the Federal False Claims Act, which alleges that by accepting sponsorship money from the government, the US Postal Service Cycling team was defrauding the government.

However, the lawsuit asks for trial by jury. Armstrong's advisors could argue that the jury has been prejudiced by the media circus that ensued around his Oprah interviews.

Is Armstrong playing a clever game? It appears so, but only time will tell.

Andy Brown