Football’s most heated controversy, whether the ball actually crosses the goal line, is being consigned to history after Fifa finally approved technology systems to help officials to decide if a goal has been scored.
The unanimous decision by the International Football Association Board, the Fifa body responsible for the game’s rules, clears the way for professional leagues to introduce Hawk-Eye or GoalRef, the two approved systems.
England’s Premier League said it would introduce technology “as soon as is practically possible”, which is likely to be during the middle of the coming season.
Hawk-Eye’s technology is a camera-based system which sends a radio signal to a wristwatch worn by the referee to show that a goal has been scored. Hawk-Eye, a British company bought last year by Sony, developed the line-call system used in tennis and the technology that tracks the ball’s direction in cricket.
GoalRef, a device devised by a Danish-German consortium, inserts a microchip in the ball and builds magnetic waves in the goal. Both systems take less than a second to determine the outcome, as Fifa requires.
England’s Football Association described the decision as historic. “It is a hugely important day,” said FA chief executive Alex Horne. “It is a cause we have had on our agenda for a number of years.”
Despite the adoption some time ago of technology by several other sports, football authorities were for many years dubious about the idea. That changed in the 2010 world cup in South Africa when officials failed to spot that a shot from Frank Lampard had clearly crossed the line in England’s match against Germany in Bloemfontein.
Sepp Blatter, Fifa president and a long-term sceptic about goal line technology, apologised to England representatives at the end of the match and determined that Fifa would look at the issue closely.
The controversy was reignited at Euro 2012 when Ukraine were denied a goal in their group match against England.
One opponent is Michel Platini, the Uefa president, who fears the use of technology will spread to other areas of the game, such as offsides, handballs and fouls. Uefa can decide not to use goal line technology in the competitions it runs.
Uefa has sought to confront the goal line technology by stationing extra officials behind each goal, but the officials failed to spot the ball crossing the line in Ukraine-England match.
Probably the most controversial goal line decision was made at the 1966 world cup final at Wembley between England and West Germany when Geoff Hurst’s strike in extra-time was declared to have crossed the line after hitting the cross and bouncing down.