Ukraine non-goal ratchets up pressure on FIFA

Thanks to John Terry, the world now has irrefutable proof that despite its possible glitches, GLT (Goal-Line Technology) must be superior to GLH (Goal-Line Human).

And if a GLT system is adopted in July, MLS commissioner Don Garber has already stated the league would implement it as quickly as possible. That would mean the second half of the season would be played under different officiating conditions as the first half, but given the viral nature of such incidents, he and the league don’t have much of a choice. They can’t risk a playoff game or MLS Cup being marred by a flubbed goal-line call, or at least leave the decisions up to mere humans if a technological system has been approved.

England beat co-host Ukraine, 1-0, Tuesday on the final day of group play in the European Championship. The victory moved England to the top of Group D and knocked out Ukraine, but the result almost took a back seat to an officiating error that cost Ukraine an equalizer.

When Terry cleared a shot by Ukraine’s Marko Devic that had fully crossed the line, but barely, not 10 yards away stood the GLH. Technically, he’s a “fifth official,” one of two stationed on the goal-line to judge such incidents. For whatever reason, he didn’t signal a goal even though television replays showed the ball passing all the way past the goalposts -- and thus the goal line, since by rule they must be the same width -- before Terry volleyed the ball clear.

The curse of replay cameras, particularly those that slow down the action, is they don’t accurately represent what the human eye can discern in real time. The time lapse between the ball crossing the goal line and Terry’s foot hacking it away was a fraction of a second, and though a freeze-frame caught the ball an inch or so beyond the posts, the fifth official’s eyes didn’t.

So why doesn’t FIFA approve the use of video replays for goal-line incidents, rather than the two imaging systems, GoalRef and Hawk-Eye, being tested by the International Football Association Board, which implements rule changes? There are technical issues as well as political ones, but one side effect would be creating more problems and controversies than those a goal-line camera system might solve.

What FIFA fears are instances such as the buildup to the Ukraine “goal,” in which Artem Milevskiy was offside when he ran onto a ball before he crossed it to Devic. While a camera sited along the goal line -- another form of technology the world governing body absolutely refuses to consider -- probably wouldn’t catch the offside, wider angles very well could. The howls of protest of the defending team once replays were shown would be in regards to a blown offside call, not whether or not the ensuing shot had crossed the goal line.

One might argue that FIFA, as does the NFL for video replays, can stipulate what can be reviewed and what can’t. And that’s utterly impractical, for the NFL is a 32-team, wildly profitable, self-administering fiefdom. It can pass rules and tweak them and change them with impunity, as it has done numerous times since adapting the initial version of replay in 1986. FIFA has, literally, a whole world to administer.

If FIFA had used instant replay at the 1986 World Cup, and thus disallowed Diego Maradona’s handball goal against England, he and Argentina would still be claiming a “video conspiracy” had been formed to wreck their chances of a world championship, whether or not they’d gone on to win the trophy. And I don’t mean to single out Argentina; the top national teams and most powerful clubs would lead the protests in borderline cases, and that’s a migraine FIFA executives just don’t want.

FIFA has enough trouble keeping teams and national federations in line as it is; if cameras policing goal-line incidents in every professional match were also recording jersey grabs, body slams, and leg whips not disciplined by the game officials -- not to mention botched offside calls leading up to goals -- so many protests and objections would be filed the game would grind to a halt. There would be extreme pressure to either expand video surveillance of matches, or drop technology altogether.

The imaging systems reveal, nearly instantaneously, only if a ball has passed beyond the posts and the goal-line. (Demands for rigorous maintenance and recalibrations will be bothersome but tolerable.) If a system passes the tests, FIFA will have a method -- in theory, anyway -- of addressing a major problem without triggering unmanageable aftereffects. Regardless, it should also keep the fifth officials, and perhaps empower them to help the referee and referee’s assistants to police action around the goal, where fouling is rampant.

It must be said that match officials, including the GLH, got the call right when Antonio Cassano’s header in the Italy-Ireland match Monday hit the crossbar and landed beyond the goal line before being cleared. Maybe balls hitting the ground are easier to call, since a ball on the ground is much closer to the goal line than one in the air, but if that’s the case, how could Frank Lampard’s shot in the 2010 World Cup get nearly a yard beyond the goal line before being scooped clear by Germany keeper Manuel Neuer without a goal being awarded?

While the cries for GLT grow more strident, and adoption of a system is regarded by many as a foregone conclusion, what happens if the tests determine neither system is reliable enough? The second phase of testing is being conducted in various stadiums, in differing lighting and weather conditions, during actual games to determine reliability. It was used in the England-Belgium friendly in late May.

Scorn will rain down on the IFAB if its report next month says neither system is reliable enough to be adopted, and FIFA won’t escape criticism, either. Yet for all competitions, and all leagues such as MLS, there can’t be a half-measure that works most of the time. The solution has to be just that.

22 comments about "Ukraine non-goal ratchets up pressure on FIFA".
  1. ROBERT BOND, June 20, 2012 at 9:06 a.m.

    Stick some(tough)transmitters on the ball, sensors on the front woodwork, & a(flat)flashing light along the whole freame.....

  2. Wayne Norris, June 20, 2012 at 9:42 a.m.

    Article never mentioned what effect call had on either team's position in group.

    I believe none but article should note...

  3. Rick Figueiredo, June 20, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

    Lost in all of this was John Terry's incredible save. Goal or no goal and it was called a "no goal," that was one incredible recovery! Personally, I am not 100% sure it WAS a goal. I WANT it to be a goal. I am 99.9999999999% sure it was one. As Lalas said and I paraphrase: Did you see daylight between the ball and the post?

  4. Gunther Charles, June 20, 2012 at 10:14 a.m.

    OK here we are crying over spilled milk again, do you know what a "milli second" is? That was the time it has taken for John Terry to get the ball out. Did he even thought of the ball had crossed the line? Heck no, he only knows to get the ball back into the field of play before a swarm of players surrounded him to kick the ball (again?) into the goal. Don't players make mistakes, do Referees make mistakes? The answer to both is "YES", are the making mistakes on purpose, probably "NOT."
    The case of Manual Neuer, get the ball back into play as fast as possible, before anybody woke up with questioning the goal, play was already in full swing.

  5. Brent Crossland, June 20, 2012 at 10:45 a.m.

    The simplest and easiest to implement solution would be two small video cameras attached to the back of the goal post in the upper 90 and focused down on the goal line. Video available to the fourth official on demand.

    This would also produce the least controversy. I can hardly wait for the first time that the high tech sensor doesn't indicate a goal but some video replay seems to indicate the ball across the plane of the goal line or the other way around. Ready for claims that the high tech goal technology has been hacked?

  6. Charles O'Cain, June 20, 2012 at 10:48 a.m.

    Why do we want to install a machine (fallible, as all machines are) for a human in only one aspect of a human contest? The GLH's head was not perfectly positioned (it was ever so slightly toward the field of play side of the line, thus magnifying the "width" of the goalpost/line, especially if the GLH was left-eye dominant) Can we really ever be sure that the GLT "eye" will be perfectly positioned at both ends of every pitch in every stadium where it might be employed to decide this one aspect of this very complex sporting contest (so aptly described by Mr Mahoney above)? Of course not. We must learn to live with the inevitability of wrong decisions, whoever the decider, be it player, referee, spectator or technology. If you must have a machine make the decision, play video football.

  7. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, June 20, 2012 at 11:03 a.m.

    Writing as one who is (like, I suspect, Mr Charles) perfectly happy to continue having soccer with neither goal-line technology nor extra officials watching the goal, I will say, first, that Mr Mahoney's and Mr Bond's suggestions for are unnecessarily complicated ways of dealing with the issue. All that's needed are four cameras, mounted in line with the goal line at least 8' high (preferably much higher) to see over people's heads and aimed at the goal frame; and a replay screen similar to the silly contraption used by the NFL. If there is a claimed goal, then AT THE NEXT STOPPAGE OF PLAY, the referee can review the footage. If the same team scores (again) before that, then we have a no-harm-no-foul situation; if they don't, the game's not interrupted. If the other team scores before a stoppage of play (it could happen, I suppose), then award that goal and review the footage from the other end. (If the team claiming the unawarded goal puts the ball out to get the review, that's delay of game and the referee has the option of a yellow card.) The only time all this will take is however long is needed for the ref to run over to the screen, watch a couple of camera shots, and decide. Maybe a minute, tops. If it's somehow not clear from that, no goal. Let's not overcomplicate this issue. (And again, I'm perfectly happy with no technology, no useless extra refs, and all the exciting controversy each blown call engenders.)

    Second, I'd suggest to Mr Figueiredo that HD makes all the difference in this case. There was clearly a thin line of green between ball and post.

    Third, Mr Mahoney is wrong when he puts the blame on the neuron-transmission speed of the extra referee's eyes. The problem is simply one of parallax. The goal-line ref's head was slightly inside the goal line at the moment the ball entered and was cleared; I'd say his nose was about even with the inner border of the line. Thus, his view was not perfectly in line with the post and line, and so it would not have appeared to him, from that vantage, that the ball completely cleared the line. Don't believe it? Take a print of the moment Terry contacts the ball, showing the ref's head. Interpolate where his eyes are (since you're looking at the back of his head), and draw straight lines from that point to the goal post and beyond to the ball. The post will seem to block a small part of his view of the ball, and that's all that's needed for it to not be a goal. He called it as he saw it, and there's no need for fancy neural explanations.

  8. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, June 20, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.

    There must be something in the water that caused Mr Crossland and Mr O'Cain to make my same points (more succinctly, but that's me) in the time it took me to write out my magnum opus.

  9. John Soares, June 20, 2012 at 11:49 a.m.

    It's a game by humans for humans, mistakes included. Next we will have players with gadgets in their ears an coaches in the booths telling them who's open and when to take a shot. Having said that IF we are to have technology involved. Then I too would vote for cameras. Unless we have pictures to show everyone, especially the critics. The controversy will never go away.... and maybe that's a good thing!?

  10. ROBERT BOND, June 20, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.

    no cameras, no humans-pure tech-that poor Hungarian will never be able to go to the Ukraine again...

  11. John Soares, June 20, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.

    No humans, pure tech. We already have it!
    It's called video games. You never need to leave the house... much less visit the Ukraine.

  12. ROBERT BOND, June 20, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.

    humans plus tech=american football-no thanks-it's called sarcasm, John(flashing lights)-let the funny shirts do their thing, & 3 are plenty......

  13. John Soares, June 20, 2012 at 1 p.m.

    OK Robert, you got me! :)

  14. ROBERT BOND, June 20, 2012 at 1:31 p.m.

    besides, check espn-bladder has already said he wants it, they are choosing 7/5-and it will be eurotech, like nokia...

  15. ROBERT BOND, June 20, 2012 at 2:13 p.m.

    just looked at the espn post again-humans looking at cameras mean human error, if there was to be tech part of this, which i hate but seeth is for, if a purely tech thing is possible then nobody gets mad at a human, which in fussball is potentially lethal(think:own-goal/Colombia)-infrared laser grid would work-good hacker can screw things up as easy as a bad ref, having sat through many bcs ncaa game reviews, 90% are up held & only miller & busch are happy.....

  16. James Madison, June 20, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.

    I have to guess there were replays not shown on the ESPN telecast, because, to judge from what I could see, ALL of the ball did not pass over the goal line---most of it for sure, but not ALL.

  17. Eddie A Garcia, M.D., June 21, 2012 at 12:40 a.m.

    Hawkeye works quite well with the identical situation of a much smaller ball needing to fully cross a line. Has been used very successfully to settle appealed "in/out" calls on the service and base lines in tennis If the device can capture an Andy Roddick 140 mph serve fault, a modified application of the same technology will do just fine judging a #5 soccer ball fully crossing the goal line. An automatic signal could be set up to stop play whenever the device senses a goal, the officials call notwithstanding. I like the red beacon light and the siren from hockey! Would go well with Cantor's "GOOOOOOOLLLLLL". Even if it were to be wrong in some small fraction of the time, it has got to be better than what we have now. Too many important games are "asterisked" by miss-calls. I agree with the idea that inserting replays into every disputed call is not only unnecessary, but likely unmanageable in a game that does not have intrinsic to it stops after every play. I thus, do not agree with use of video replays. Football games should be decided by the relative strengths and weaknesses of the players and their coaches, not by those of the referees.

  18. Charles O'Cain, June 21, 2012 at 8:31 a.m.

    Hawkeye doesn't solve the problem. It just substitutes a (non-reviewable) computer-generated image/decision for a human one, thus shortening the arguments and reducing the tirades (think McEnroe). And at considerable cost. There's really only been one disputed goal in the tournament thus far, and to have a machine grant the goal without flagging the offside play would be a travesty of the same order. Who's the winner here (besides Hawkeye Ltd.?)

  19. Eddie A Garcia, M.D., June 21, 2012 at 11:35 p.m.

    Could not disagree more, Mr. O'Cain, nor could, I suspect, any team that might have in the past or will in the future be cheated out of the millions that promotion to the premier league, or qualification for Champions League means, should their failure hinge on a missed goal call. What is the cost comparison there? The point here is not blindly granting goals without taking into consideration an AR's lofted off-side flag, but rather alleviating his/her duties by making the much easier (for a machine) goal-line call no longer their concern. Should Hawkeye become a fixture at every major venue, I trust there will remain enough fodder for polemic in our beloved sport to satisfy even the most ravenous appetites for water cooler jabber. Again, the game should be about the players, not the flaws in assessing their performance. Hawkeye or similar gear will help optimize (though not perfect) scoring of the game, as it has in other sports. Cheers.

  20. Charles O'Cain, June 22, 2012 at 6:10 p.m.

    They WILL be "cheated" out of the millions it will cost to provide the technology to every stadium, for every match, to "settle" <0.1% of goal calls (assuming you believe the technology will actually work in the environmental conditions common to football; this has NOT been established by real-world experience). To extrapolate from tennis to football without scientific study is not warranted. Remember, if you ask a machine that has been programmed to give an answer, it will give you an answer. A human still must determine whether or not the answer is correct. That's what I learned in medical school, at least. And in the interest of full disclosure, are you perhaps an investor in Hawkeye or its affiliates, Dr. Garcia?

  21. Eddie A Garcia, M.D., June 23, 2012 at 1:01 a.m.

    Sorry to ruffle your feathers, chap. NO need to personalize the debate. If you must, however, no investment interest here. I still earn my living the old fashioned way. However, that fact does not prevent me from coming into the 21st century. If I may return your focus to the original idea, we are trying to make the scoring of the game more consistent, and spare it from the vagaries of human error as much as possible. It's not necessarily the number of missed goal calls, but rather the effect of missing the big calls. Potential downside from blown calls ranges from prestige-less victory, to loss of team revenue, and not to mention possible fan violence on the losing side. No one is claiming any system of goal line tech will be infallible, only that it is more likely than not to be LESS fallible than, for instance, that 5th ref was in Ukraine. We're not trying to cure cancer here. It is quite simple to come to a convention on what or who will determine if the goal has been scored. Either the 5th ref, or the device. It will by FIFA convention/definition be the correct decision, just as at present the ref's decision is always the correct one on the field. The testing that you desire is precisely what will likely come to pass. Don't think for a minute that "every stadium" will be outfitted next season at the cost of millions. It may well be that such implementation will only be used at the highest level competitions as the WC, etc. just as it is in other sports. To dogmatically adhere to an attitude of "leave the game alone" is silly in this day. Why not take all the digital timers and watches away as well and just let a human estimate when 90 minutes have elapsed, then call it a game?

  22. Charles O'Cain, June 23, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.

    Sounds good to me. But I don't see the need for it if you can't address the other types of missed calls too. How would fairness have been served for the Ukraine goal to have been awarded when the play was indisputably offside? I don't see WHY the goal line call is more important to the integrity of the game. There will be 4500+ matches in the major European top level leagues next year, each of which MIGHT have a disputed goal (but only 4 or 5 are likely to, statistically). Where are we to focus our attention?

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