The age of goal-line tech is near
It's clear soccer badly needs GLT after a blown call cost Ukraine a goal vs. England
FIFA president Sepp Blatter no longer sees beauty in good call/bad call debates
Tests on two systems are ongoing, and the OK is not FIFA's alone, but IFAB's
WARSAW -- Another major soccer tournament, another unawarded goal that should have counted.
That's where we find ourselves after human error once again botched the most important call in the sport during Tuesday's England-Ukraine game at Euro 2012. Replays showed that a shot by Ukraine's Marko Devic crossed England's goal-line entirely, the definition of a goal, but the additional assistant referee on the line -- the man whose entire job is to make such calls -- ruled no goal.
I don't want to get bogged down in the particular side-details surrounding the call in this game. Yes, there was karmic justice, since the assistant referee also missed a Ukrainian offside in the build-up. And yes, it's unfair to say that the goal-line mistake robbed the Ukrainians of a victory they needed to advance, since they would only have tied the game at 1-1. (At the same time, it's also fair to say that the game at 1-1 would have been different.)
But don't take your eye off what matters most: In one of the sport's showpiece events, the ball crossed the line entirely and was not ruled a goal.
The exact same thing happened at World Cup 2010, when England's Frank Lampard was robbed of a goal that clearly crossed the line against Germany. Even worse, Ukraine's phantom "goal" happened with that additional assistant referee on the line.
And for that reason we might have finally seen the watershed moment that makes goal-line technology a reality. On July 5 in Zurich, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which determines the laws of the sport, will decide whether to approve that technology from among two finalists: Hawk-Eye, the camera-based system that is used in tennis and cricket, and GoalRef, in which the ball interacts with a magnetic field. Tests have been ongoing with both this year.
On Wednesday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter left no doubt on his stance, tweeting: "After last night's match, [goal-line technology] is no longer an alternative but a necessity."
We'll forget for a moment that Blatter was fiercely opposed to it as recently as two years ago, claiming (ludicrously) that the debate over good and bad calls was one of the beauties of soccer. These days, Blatter has suddenly decided that it might be good to, you know, get things right.
But even with Blatter's support, goal-line technology is not yet a done deal to be approved on July 5. For starters, we have yet to learn the results of the tests. Have Hawk-Eye and GoalRef been proven to work reliably? What's more, the decision to approve goal-line tech is not entirely FIFA's call, but rather IFAB's. FIFA has four of the eight seats on IFAB, with the other four going to each of the United Kingdom's pioneering associations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For goal-line tech to pass, it will need at least six of IFAB's eight votes.
I'm guardedly optimistic that it will pass, however, and provide the sport with a change it truly needs. You can also be certain that if GLT is approved, the English Premier League and Major League Soccer will put the technology into use as soon as the equipment installation allows.
And soccer, finally, can enter the 21st century.