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The decision to use goal-line technology in football has been strongly disputed by FIFA for years.

However, it seems that years of discussion and debate have come to an end and a new era is finally upon us.

Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ v Germany in Bloemfontein, South Africa

Frank Lampard disallowed goalTwo years ago FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, apologised to the Football Association over Frank Lampard’s ghost ‘goal’ and promised that FIFA would look at goal-line technology.

Whether or not England had deserved anything from the 2nd round tie is open to debate, but the incident could easily have proved a seminal moment in the match. The momentum was with England at the time but they were 2-1 down to Germany when Lampard’s legitimate goal wasn’t awarded, despite the ball clearly crossing the line – and by some distance!

Had the goal been given and England had equalised, then who knows the game may have taken a different course? Fabio Capello’s half time team talk would have certainly been different. We now now that England’s momentum didn’t re-emerge after the break and they were taught a footballing lesson by the Germans in the second half. England were knocked out of the tournament and finished the game on the wrong end of a 4-1 thrashing that will long remain in the national consciousness.

The 1966 World Cup Final

Geoff Hurst disallowed goalSome may argue that, goal-line technology or not, luck evens itself out over time.

The Germans would most likely be in that camp, having suffered Geoff Hurst‘s goal that helped England beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final. With the scores level at 2-2 in extra time, Hurst smashed the ball on to the crossbar and it bounced down on the line, only for the infamous Russian linesman Tofiq Bahramov to signal that the ball had crossed the line. England went on to win 4-2 and lift the Jules Rimet Trophy.

The truth is hard to prove but in 1995 researchers at Oxford University concluded that the whole of the ball did not cross the line, and so a goal should not have been awarded.

FIFA’s view on goal-line technology

FIFA has long resisted calls for goal-line technology, despite similar technology now being a staple at Wimbledon (Hawk-Eye) and international cricket (Umpire Decision Review System).

Since 2005, when Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes was robbed of a spectacular 45 yard ‘goal’ against Manchester United, there has been a concerted international debate about goal-line technology. However the man whose opinion matters, Sepp Blatter, was unconvinced and rejected the system outright, describing the technology as ‘only 95% accurate’.

The turning point

England Ukraine goal line technologyIt seems ironic that the moment which Blatter credits with changing his mind also involved England, but this time when the Three Lions were on the favourable side of a decision.

After tournament co-hosts Ukraine were denied an equaliser during their crunch Euro 2012 match against England, Blatter tweeted: “After last night‘s match #GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity.”

Although like the linesman, he chose to disregard the Ukrainian player clearly in an offside position during the build up play. Before that incident Blatter and Michel Platini were adamant that human circumspection was enough, and had employed a team of five officials, including the apparent unsuccessful use of Additional Assistant Referees behind each goal to watch over every aspect of Euro 2012.

By their own admission the team of referee and assistants charged with officiating that game got it wrong. Renowned referee Pierluigi Collina, who is the head of referees for the Football Federation of Ukraine, said: “We made a mistake. I wish we hadn‘t made the mistake but we did. Referees are human beings and human beings make mistakes.”

How would goal-line technology work in practice?

FIFA is a notoriously stubborn organisation, but it seems that a new dawn is in sight. However there is still a long way to go and many questions remain currently unanswered;

  • Will decision reviews lie solely in the hands of the referee, or, as in other sports, might the team involved get a number of decision reviews per game?
  • How would this affect a football match? Unlike cricket or tennis, which have natural breaks in play with overs or service games, waiting for a decision in a football match could disrupt the momentum of a team and the game as a whole.
  • Do the teams themselves want the technology? If you were to ask any team that has been on the wrong end of a decision, they would probably say that waiting for a correct decision would be a small price to pay.
  • Which system would be used? Currently two systems have been passed as suitable, the GoalRef system and the Hawk-Eye system. Fittingly one is a joint Danish-German system and the other is English!

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