Will Soccer-Ball Tracking Ever Reach Its Goal?

Goal-line technologies advance but might not score an invitation to the 2014 World Cup

 

This month, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is set to take yet another look at technology meant to eliminate the possibility of human error in the most fundamental aspect of a match—determining when a goal has been scored. Nine companies met the 1 June deadline to register for the tryout, but a federation spokesman would not reveal the names of the firms. The federation, the governing body for football (or soccer), says the winner will be announced sometime in 2012.

"If it's proved to be accurate and affordable, it's possible that the international board will adopt this technology during the 2014 World Cup," says FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Déjà vu, anyone? FIFA was expected to adopt goal-line technology after a round of tests in 2008. But it unexpectedly reversed course, with Blatter saying that he wanted football to "keep its human face." But FIFA officials had a change of heart after referees blew several calls at the 2010 World Cup. During a match between England and Germany, a goal was not counted despite TV replays that showed the ball crossing the goal line before bouncing back.

With the specter of the 2010 tournament in the background, FIFA has assigned the task of assessing goal-line systems to the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, in Zurich. FIFA expects the systems to recognize 100 percent of free shots on goal, and to transmit within 1 second a vibrated and visual indication of a scored goal to a special watch worn by the referee.

Only a few companies showcasing their wares during the preliminary round of testing in December will be invited back for a second, more stringent judging, between March and June 2012. The results of both assessment stages will be unveiled by next September.

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