World football's governing body FIFA has approved the use of goal-line technologies to prevent big-game mistakes. The age-old debate was given fresh impetus at Euro 2012 when co-hosts Ukraine were denied a goal.
Did the whole of the ball cross the line? Referees and their fellow officials in football games will soon be able to rely on technological assistance when answering this question, rather than deciding using only what they saw in real time.
World soccer's governing body FIFA on Thursday announced that goal-line technologies would be introduced to help match officials reach the correct decisions.
FIFA's custodians of the rules of football, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), convened on Thursday at the organization's headquarters in Zurich to discuss this and other matters.
FIFA will introduce two forms of goal-line technology, called Hawk-Eye and GoalRef, starting at the World Club Cup in Japan this December. The new referee's assistants will then be used at the international Confederations Cup in Brazil in 2013 and then at the World Cup, also in Brazil, in 2014.
"We want to make sure that the systems at the World Cup work at 150 percent, not 90 percent," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters in Zurich.
Valcke said both systems had the IFAB panel's "unanimous" support after test periods. Hawk-Eye, a system already used for close calls in tennis, uses cameras to ascertain whether the ball has crossed the goal line; GoalRef uses magnetic fields, coupled with a chip placed inside the football.
Fashionably late to the party
Football's top authorities had been debating the use of video evidence on goal lines for years. Many sports, from tennis and cricket to ice hockey, basketball and American Football, offer the possibility to use technological aids or replay footage to make some of the most controversial officiating calls.
Most match refereeing will remain the domain of the referees and their assistants, with FIFA long arguing that excessive reliance on technology would slow the game down. The special case of whether a ball crossed the goal line had long been highlighted as a possible exception, given this particular decision's importance and the high stakes of the modern game.
In Euro 2012, co-hosts Ukraine were denied a goal in their final group game against England. Defender John Terry cleared the ball out of the goal mouth, but replays revealed that it had crossed the line.
"After last night's match [goal-line technology] is no longer an alternative, but a necessity," FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote on Twitter after the game. UEFA President Michel Platini was perhaps the highest-profile opponent of the technology, but even he had said he expected IFAB to approve it.
Green light at domestic level
FIFA's approval allows domestic football bodies to consider using the technology in their own competitions.
The English Premier League (EPL) is expected to adopt one or both of the systems for the coming season.
"The Premier League has long been an advocate of goal-line technology," The EPL said in a statement. "We will engage in discussions with both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef in the near future with a view to introducing goal-line technology as soon as is practically possible."
As of Thursday evening, Germany's DFB football authority had only acknowledged the FIFA decision on its Twitter account, without detailing its own plans for the German Bundesliga.
Headscarves also approved
Instead of goal-line technology, FIFA had introduced two extra goal-line officials for Euro 2012 - charged with monitoring the penalty area and the goal line only. IFAB on Thursday endorsed this system, saying the extra officials had proved useful additions to big games.
Also in Zurich on Thursday, the IFAB said it would allow Muslim players to wear headscarves on the pitch, something that was banned until now.
IFAB had previously outlawed headscarves on the basis that they increased the risk of injury, but said that new designs using Velcro removed these safety concerns.
"The decision, impatiently awaited, makes us very happy," Sheikha Naima al-Sabah, the president of the women's sporting committee for Kuwait's football federation said. "It brings justice to female players. Its positive impact will be direct on Kuwaiti women's enthusiasm to play football."
Several predominantly Muslim countries had complained to FIFA about the headscarf ban.
msh/sej (AFP, dpa, Reuters)