The readers will be wondering about the title. What is the relation between GLT and the National Anthem? None.
In these extraordinary pandemic days of our generation, there was not much of any soccer action, at least until now. So I find it difficult to identify topics to write about. In the past, I had written articles that consisted of two or three sequels. This time I have two topics to cover in one article.
Let us start with Goal Line Technology (GLT). GLT is the first technology used for decision-making in soccer prior to the use of VAR. It is only used to decide whether the ball has crossed the plane completely – under the cross bar and the goal posts – or not. It has been incorporated into the LOTG in 2012. The use of technology for a goal decision was triggered by two scandalous decisions in the World Cups: The infamous deciding goal by England in the 1966 World Cup Final and the goal that was not awarded by Frank Lampard against Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Strangely enough, both were England vs. Germany games.
The diagonal system of control and three officials – like any other human-based system – have some shortcomings. Especially when a shot is made outside the penalty area it is impossible for the AR to be on the goal line to decide whether the whole of the ball has crossed the plane. That is what happened in the game between England and Germany in the 2010 World Cup. The 1966 World Cup final it is a bit different. Tofiq Bahramov – the Azerbaijani referee who was representing USSR then – was the linesman in that game. When Geoff Hurst kicked the ball, he was about 7-8 yards away from the goal line. (He was not on the goal line) The ball bounced between the crossbar and the goal line and returned to the field. Bahramov decided it was a goal and signaled it as such. We now know that it was not a goal – only a few Englishmen will claim it to be a goal - and Bahramov is a hero in Azerbaijan. After his death in 1993, Azerbaijan's then national stadium was renamed the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in his honor.
With the use of Additional Assistant Referees (AAR), IFAB was able to secure an official on the goal line to decide whether the ball crossed the plane
completely or not. Unfortunately, with the use of VAR, the AARs are gone, so now we have to rely primarily on technology to decide whether the whole of the ball of the ball has crossed the plane when
the AR is not on the goal line. In some competitions, both the GLT and the VAR system are used. Seria A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and EPL as well as the final games of UEFA's Europa League and Champions
League use both VAR and GLTs. As of January 2020, there are 106 stadiums in the world that has GLT. MLS chose not to use GLT in its competitions citing its high cost: The installation of GLT in
a stadium costs around $250,000. GLT is not flawless. Multiple errors in the 2017–18 Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinals led to use of the GLT system to be temporarily suspended
by France's Ligue de Football Professionnel. It failed to award Paris Saint-Germain its second goal against Amiens, which the video assistant referee overturned. In the
match between Angers and Montpellier, the system incorrectly flagged the referee, causing the match officials to not use it for the second half.
Very recently, in the first week after the pandemic break, Sheffield United appeared to take the lead in the first half when Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland caught Oliver Norwood’s free kick over the line, but no goal was detected by the goal-line technology system, and play went on without the intervention of VAR. Apparently, PGMOL advised the ARs and the VAR operators not to intervene in the case of a “borderline” goal and let the GLT make the decision.
These in-and-out decisions are also key factors in other sports like tennis and volleyball. In both sports, technology is used to decide whether the ball is in or out. Those are decisions that happen many times in a game and the system has no problem making the correct decision since the players do not occlude the view of the system. But both in football and soccer, the decisions whether the ball cut the plane of the touchdown line or the whole of the crossed the goal plane are relatively rare and like in the Aston Villa-Sheffield United game the players might occlude the view of the cameras that will make the decision. Especially in football sometimes making the decision whether the ball cut the plane might be a very tough one with lots of players surrounding the ball and hence require multiple camera angles to decide. The manufacturer of the GLT used in the EPL – the Hawk-Eye company – said after the game that although seven cameras were used the players occluded the camera views and the goal was not awarded. They said it happened only once in more than 9,000 games.
The question to ask at this point is in how many games a controversial goal/no goal decision was correctly made by the GLT in EPL. In those decisions wouldn’t the same correct decision be reached via a camera right on the goal line and a VAR operator who was not instructed not to intervene? Let us assume that in very few instances – most probably anywhere from zero to one or two situations in 9,000 plus games - you would absolutely need a GLT to reach a correct decision even though a VAR operator was existent. The question to ask is it worth the investment? It is basically a cost-benefit analysis. My guess is that like the AAR, the GLT will go into a state of oblivion in the years to come.
I have just heard Bruce Arena’s comments on the national anthem. I also read the comments by the public about what he said. He says: “However, I question why we are playing national anthems in professional sporting events in this country. I believe the history of the anthem was that it was brought in during World War II to celebrate the baseball players and soldiers who participated in World War II. And then it was obviously extended to other sports to where it is today. I think it puts people in awkward positions. We don't use the national anthem in movie theaters, on Broadway, or for other events in the United States.”
This prompted an anecdote that I have to share with the readers: It was early 1990s and I was the head of refereeing for the Turkish FA. PKK – a Kurdish separatist terrorist organization – were attacking Turkish armed and security forces and killing many. During the professional soccer games, the fans wanted to show solidarity with the Turkish armed and security forces and honor the dead so they started singing the national anthem in an unorganized way. Sometimes, even after the kickoff, forcing the referee to stop the game until the anthem finished.
The Turkish federation did not know what to do; it was a chaotic and very sensitive environment. I have lived in the USA from 1978-87 and witnessed that the national anthem was played prior to all high school, college and professional games in all sports. I told Senes Erzik, the Turkish federation president, about what I witnessed in the USA and suggested we could have a similar approach in Turkey. So a taped version of the national anthem was sent to every professional league soccer stadium and was played in an orderly manner just before the coin toss.
Nearly 30 years have passed. PKK is not a threat that it used to be in the early 1990s. Many times the federation -– which is the only federation in Europe that systematically plays the national anthem before every professional soccer game –- wanted to abolish the ritual of playing the Anthem before the games, but was met with great resistance. The president of the federation realized that by doing so he will be labeled as a traitor and chose to continue with the status quo. So in Turkey they still play the anthem before every professional soccer game and but not in UEFA-sanctioned games like the Champions League.
This was the first time when I listened to Bruce Arena that I realized why we sing the anthem here in the USA. It dates back to the World War II. I respect Bruce’s position on this issue but unfortunately it is a very political and divisive issue. I hope that Bruce will be not be labeled as an unpatriotic person, but some of the comments made to his interview with Taylor Twellman were not very encouraging. We have to learn to tolerate others and to respect their views even though we do not agree with them.
Ahmet Guvener (email@example.com) is the former Secretary General and the Chief Soccer Officer of Turkish FA. He was also the Head of Refereeing for the Turkish FA. He served as Panel member for the FIFA Panel of Referee Instructors and UEFA Referee Convention. He now lives and works as a soccer consultant in Georgetown, TX.