Hawk-Eye – an invention of Paul Hawkins which uses strategically placed cameras to generate a 3D animation of the trajectory of an object – has been successfully used in tennis for the past 15 months.
In football, this technology could be used to determine whether or not a ball has crossed a line, and tests will get under way this summer to test and adjust Hawk-Eye for football purposes. The end goal of the tests which will start this August at Reading’s academy will be to have the technology available for goal-line decisions in all Premier League games starting from the 2009-2010 season.
This has been great news for some fans and officials who will soon have one less thing to worry about. However not all fans are happy that this new technology will soon be part of our game. Some worries have risen that Hawk-Eye may not be as accurate as predicted or that the introduction will result in frequent interruptions of the game. However these are not the real worries of the Premier League, who should feel confident that the system is viable enough to be used during a game as long as they have given the nod for the system to be tested and perfected.
To quickly dismiss some fears that skeptical fans may have, in tennis the margin of error of Hawk-Eye is three millimetres, a margin which will not affect a football decision given that a whole half of the ball must be over the line for a goal to be awarded. Another fear is that objects, such as the posts and players might stand in the way and obstruct the view of the cameras on the ball. However this looks to be another aspect of the technology which will be tested at the Reading academy.
Also the interruption of the game looks to worry some fans, but being realistic, how many close goal-line decisions is a game likely to feature? If the match will be stopped for Hawk-Eye to analyse the situation it will only happen a few times during a whole season. And in tennis it takes a matter of second for Hawk-Eye to kick in. How much longer could it take in football? Neither time nor accuracy should worry the fans. This is an aspect of Hawk-Eye which the officials of the Premier League will take care of.
However more is going to have to be done than just making sure that the technology works. And one of the crucial things will be the circumstances under which Hawk-Eye would be employed. A team will certainly not want the game to be stopped if they are in a goal-scoring position. And if the game were to be stopped after a bookable offence was committed to verify if the ball had crossed the line, will the yellow card still stand? It would not be very fair to the team which picked up a card when play should have been stopped. Also if the players of a team feel that the ball did not cross the line and they had momentum going, they might not want the referee to stop the game.
The only reasonable method of employing Hawk-Eye would seem to be through challenges: each team gets a certain number of challenges per match and loses one every time they get it wrong — just like in tennis.
The next stumbling block that the Premier League is going to have to solve the financial aspect of setting up this technology on twenty stadiums across the country and an additional three every season. Surely to set up several high performance cameras with their respective computers and the man power would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds per stadium. And if the Premier League is not going to pay for these, who is?
Surely some teams would rather abstain themselves from the latest gadget in favour of greater financial stability. And to only have the technology available on certain stadiums would be ridiculously unfair. If the Premier League is going to pay for these, it will all be all right, if they do not, they are going to have a hard time setting up Hawk-Eye across England.
To conclude, financial aspects are going to have to be resolved by the time the whole league will be using Hawk-Eye, and strict new rules are going to have to be put in place with regards to stopping the game to verify whether or not a ball has crossed the goal-line. But there should be no worries that the system might be inaccurate, it will surely have a better point of view than that of a man standing at an inappropriate angle with players blocking his view.
And finally this will be one more step toward ensuring that tournaments are decided by the quality of a team rather than a referee’s mistake.