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Goalline technology is put to the test

posted 10 May 2012, 10:34 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 10 May 2012, 10:34 ]

Technical trial of Hawk-Eye's optical system begins in England.

FIFA's long testing process for goal line technology (GLT) continued on Thursday (May 10) as Hawk-eye's optical system began its phase two trial.
Technicians from EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials, Science and Technology) started to test the robustness of the Hawk-Eye system, which uses computers linked to cameras to calculate the path of the ball.

FIFA wants to find a system which will determine reliably when the whole of a soccer ball has crossed the goal line, and register that result with an electronic signal to a watch worn by the referee within one second.

Hawk-Eye's competitor in the second phase of tests is German company GoalRef, which uses electronic chips in the ball, and will be evaluated in the same tests next month.

The first tests saw soccer balls fired at a board placed in the goal mouth. The board was moved forward until the ball did not completely cross the goal line. Later the test was repeated with dummy players placed around the goal to partly obscure the view of the cameras.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), composed of representatives from the four football associations in the United Kingdom, together with FIFA, is evaluating the systems and the results of the tests will be disclosed at a special IFAB meeting in July.

Neale Barry of IFAB's technical committee says Frank Lampard's disallowed goal for England in the 2010 World Cup increased the calls for GLT to be introduced.

He said the board felt that the time for goal line technology had come.

"If there is a technology out there that actually works, that we can implement, that can make sure that that most important decision in a game - whether a goal is scored or not - is correct; that the referee has faith in that technology to give that goal then that must be of benefit to everybody in the game," Barry said.

In football a GLT system has to be able to scan a wide, high surface as if a sheet were stretched across the goal mouth. Then it also has to be able to determine when the ball has completely passed through that sheet even when the arms, legs or bodies of other players are moving in front of the ball, and FIFA require the result to be computed and sent within one second so that the game is not disrupted.

Managing director of Hawk-Eye, Steven Carter, said it was the second part of the requirement that was most problematic.

"The basic principles, I suppose, of putting cameras around the ground and triangulating ball position based on those cameras is fairly straightforward," he said. "But it has been a huge technical challenge to deliver the accuracy and reliability that FIFA have stipulated as the requirements for successful goal line technology."

Hawk-Eye has avoided radio interference from mobile phones and other devices by developing a special watch which works with the existing communications system used by the referee and assistant referees. When the ball does cross the line a large print message "GOAL" is sent to all officials.

Carter said that Hawk-Eye already has systems for predicting the path of a tennis or cricket ball but football needed a new system. He said tennis and cricket required the path of a falling ball to be calculated.

"Whereas within football obviously the goalkeeper can carry it over the line, it can be obscured and the motion is a lot more chaotic so while it is the same basic principles we have done a huge amount of research and development to make sure that the system is absolutely right for football."

Later in the week the EMPA technicians will test how Hawk-Eye's system copes with the demands of a real game. Players will run, shoot and defend around the goal mouth at Southampton's ground to simulate the conditions in a real match.

"During the second testing phase, which is now, we are trying to cover also practical game situations which mean we have different systems working like here for example with optical cameras which track the ball," said Michael Koster of EMPA. "These systems work quite good as long as you can see the ball and therefore in our theoretical test system has performance but this performance can be quite different as soon as we are in a real football game. "

The system will be tested during a real match on May 16 when AFC Totton and Eastleigh FC contest the Hampshire FA Senior Cup Final in Southampton FC's stadium.