November 27, 2011 3:08 pm

Fifa eyes football fans’ goal software

Most football fans content themselves with moaning in the pub or on a radio phone-in when a controversial decision goes against their team. Two electricians devoted to Bolton Wanderers decided to go one step further and invent a way to tell whether or not the ball has crossed the line.

Now the technology pioneered by Harry Barnes and Dave Parden is being assessed by Fifa, the sport’s governing body, alongside systems provided by Adidas, the sportswear giant, and Hawk-Eye, the Sony-owned camera system used by umpires in cricket and tennis.

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The pair, along with fellow investors in Goalminder, are seeking £2m to boost their chances of gaining Fifa approval. After years of opposition Fifa has decided to introduce the technology and is assessing nine systems, with a final decision next July. The Football Association is hoping to have goalline technology in the Premier League next season.

Gareth Griffiths, 41, a former Rochdale player who is a financial adviser with Pro Sport Wealth Management, is leading the fundraising.

He said Mr Barnes and Mr Parden decided to develop the technology after Wanderers defender Gerry Taggart had a goal wrongly disallowed against Everton in 1997, condemning the Trotters to relegation from the Premier League.

“They were just two frustrated fans but instead of talking about it they decided to do something. Lots of people have a good idea but they remain ideas. They were electricians so they put cameras in the goalposts and crossbar and it worked.”

The original system used videotape but it has now evolved into software, developed by a US company that makes simulators for golf players endorsed by the PGA, the sport’s governing body.

The referee can watch the footage on a watch within less than a second to decide whether to award the goal.

Goalminder has a UK patent for cameras in posts and has filed for an international one. Hawk-Eye uses stadium-based cameras while other systems require the pitch to be dug up. Germany’s Cairos, backed by Adidas, has a chip in the football.

Goalminder has a demonstration set using 16 cameras made by Harrod, the UK’s leading goalpost supplier, in Lowestoft. Independent testers hired by Fifa have assessed it a second time and will announce next year whether it has met the necessary criteria, which includes 100 per cent accuracy and the referee’s watch receiving confirmation within a second.

It has been endorsed by Garth Crooks, the media pundit, and Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Mr Griffiths said Fifa could accept several systems, with each competing to be adopted by national leagues.

In October Goalminder pitched to private investment network Envestors in Manchester.

Tom Wilkins, managing director of Envestors Northwest, said it had been well received as there would be recurring revenue.

“The company owns all the pictures so could license the rights to reproduce them. They have the patent. It could be a multimillion-pound business, turning over £50m-£60m. Of course the big question is Fifa.” The investment is a gamble on Fifa accepting the system.

Mr Griffiths said: “It is not just about the money. We want to team up with an established brand that would get us recognition.”

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