Thursday night will go down in history as the first ever appearance for goal-line technology in competitive professional football.
Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima were victorious over Auckland City in the 1-0 opening fixture of FIFA’s Club World Cup championships.
The first official use of goal-line technology went without a hitch in what was a seemingly pedestrian first outing for the GoalRef technology.
FIFA are employing two different systems in Yokohama and Toyota City – one is a microchip-based system, much like a coil implanted inside the ball that corresponds with a set of low frequency magnetic waves that surround the goal.
The other is the Hawk-Eye system, used in other sports like tennis and cricket and, as FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke pre-determined, the systems will eventually be uniform in the Premier League and UEFA Champion’s League competitions. It’s understood there are already calls for it to be used in the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and Confederations Cup next year in Brazil.
Valcke spoke candidly about the new technology which proposes to eliminate ‘phantom goals’ from the sport but he pointed to expense of the technology as one of the determining factors – it is costing FIFA an estimated $1 million to run the two separate systems in Japan.
It is for this reason that the technology has been scoffed at by a number of presidents and officials in the game – the high cost of the technology would make it impossible for lower leagues to use the technology and, thus, the sport would not be uniform in terms of its rules, regulations, and this was initially deemed as an unfair advantage.
But Valcke insisted it was merely a matter of time. He spoke at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday,
“At the moment it's a luxury cost. That's why you'll see it mainly in high-level competitions. I don't think that for the time being you will see this goal-line technology system used in minor leagues. But I could expect or could imagine that the English Premier League and such leagues where the result is important, where there is so much interest, money, financial implication, you will see sooner or later a goal-line system in place."
The financial implications of using the technology are likely to be the deciding factor in the hows and whens of it’s introduction to the Premier League – big games that decided titles, Champion’s League qualification and the like are worth millions to the clubs involved and, as such, the technology will be hailed as a means to the end of human error in officiating such big games with such high stakes.
Where it will likely bring to the game a more consistent level of fairness and accuracy, what will likely be lost is the element of unpredictability in the sport – when officials give goals that never were, or deny teams goals that should have stood, it’s not just an injustice, it’s part of what makes the game exciting for the spectator – like a timeless character flaw of an old friend.
What will be gained is a higher standard of regulation but what may be lost, at a high cost, is the charm of the old idiom “we was robbed”.
image: © Brett Jordan