In the wake of FIFA’s approval of goal-line technology, MLS executive vice president Nelson Rodriguez stated the league will strive to get it up and running by 2013.
Three months ago, commissioner Don Garber mentioned the possibility of use during the 2012 season but that’s not feasible, really. The systems have to be installed in all league stadiums, which could cost as much as $250,000 a shot, and tested under the unique conditions in each facility. Plus, it wouldn’t make much sense to move the goalposts -- pun intended -- during the season and change the competitive procedures. Plus, waiting until 2013 gives the league a chance to sell a sponsorship for use of the systems and defray at least some of the expense.
FIFA approved both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef. Whether or not either system is used up to the discretion of the league or competition. English Premier League supremo Richard Scudamore has already said he wants technology used for the upcoming season and other major leagues may feel the pressure to jump aboard as well.
If the procedures work as advertised, the center referee would be signaled within one second as to whether or not the ball crossed the goal line. Since the referee is already permitted a second or two of evaluation when faced with blowing the whistle or playing advantage anywhere on the field, for example, this brief slice of time doesn’t interrupt the game flow, which is the stated reason for the FIFA stance against the use of video replays that have to be viewed during a stoppage.
If there’s a scramble along the goal line, or the ball rebounds down from the crossbar, the referee simply waits. If he gets a beep or a buzz or his favorite ring tone in his earpiece, he signals a goal has been scored. If he hears nothing, it’s business as usual. Keep in mind the final decision is up to the referee, so if he sees the ball cross the line, or one of his match officials indicates it has, he retains the power to award a goal.
To me, this doesn’t usurp the referee’s power or impinge his authority, at all. It’s a method -- reliable -- to accurately judge if a goal has been scored.
(FIFA also approved the use of goal-line officials after their use had been tested in Champions League and Europa League matches. Ideally, leagues and competitions would use both, but since a man as powerful as UEFA president Michel Platini has adamantly supported extra officials while decrying GLT, we’re in for an interesting few weeks leading up to the start of the European domestic and international club competitions.)
And has anybody asked about GLT in the Olympic soccer competition? The men’s and women’s competitions are run by FIFA under authority granted by the International Olympic Committee. Dozens of Olympic events are recorded and minutely scrutinized by officials for purposes of timing, placing, etc. Since Hawk-Eye is used extensively in tennis and cricket, two other sports the English enjoy intensely, broadening its scope to soccer for the London Olympics would seem ideal.
In his April comments, Garber expressed the willingness for MLS to be used as a test league. Well, why not aim for implementation in time for the 2012 playoffs, or perhaps MLS Cup, by installing the systems during the remainder of the 2012 season and using those matches as lab experiments?
Using GLT in the postseason would add an extra level of intrigue to the playoffs, which are being expanded this season from 13 to 15 games (the conference finals are now two-match series rather than one-off games) and for the first time will conclude with an MLS Cup being hosted by the highest-seeded survivor. True, the use of GLT would change the rules for the postseason, but that’s already the case with the use of overtime (and penalty kicks if necessary) as well as different benchmarks for yellow-card suspensions, etc.
Unfortunately, the MLS playoffs will probably come too soon for GLT to be installed and tested sufficiently as all possible postseason venues. I can’t see a few teams, which shall remain nameless, jumping to spend two or three hundred grand on some nifty gizmos when they can wait until next year when hopefully someone else will pay for it.
There’s another fly in the ointment: Since MLS Cup will be hosted by the higher-seeded finalists, and not at a predetermined site, the case of the San Jose Earthquakes as hosts would be irreconcilable. Their home field, Buck Shaw Stadium, is a renovated college baseball stadium that seats a whopping 10,500. If San Jose qualifies to host MLS Cup, the match would probably be staged at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants and not readily available for conversion to soccer until late October at the earliest.
Fortunately, most MLS teams play in relatively new facilities that are designed, wired and otherwise equipped for techno innovations. Heck, at Livestrong Sporting Park, fans will probably have the capability to download the schematics and diagrams for both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef to compare their advantages and drawbacks.
FIFA has said access to whatever data is generated by the systems, which in the case of Hawk-Eye would include images, will be restricted to the match officials (along with the technical operators involved). This won’t fly, since the evidence of a fierce derby decided by a disallowed goal has to be seen to be believed, literally. Every close line call in tennis is supplemented by the Hawk-Eye view and this will have to be the case, eventually, in soccer.
But that’s for down the road. For now, let’s celebrate FIFA getting down on the 21st Century, and MLS joining in ASAP. And since we know where the All-Star Game will be played in a few weeks, well, Philly, what say you?