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


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