Last weekend marked the start to the 2013/14 season for the Barclay’s Premier League. It also marked the start of the first season that the league employed the use of goal line technology (GLT), provided by British based company Hawk-Eye. We didn’t have to wait long before the camera system was called upon to make a call.
The new camera system is linked to a watch worn by the center referee which will indicate when the cameras detect that the ball fully crosses the line for a goal. Three separate matches last weekend relied on the system to make a goal line call: Chelsea/Hull City, Liverpool/Stoke City, and Aston Villa/Arsenal. In all three instances the goals were correctly disallowed when the referees’ watches made no indications that the ball fully crossed the goal line and the refs in all cases let play continue.
Chelsea defender, Branislav Ivanovich, headed the ball towards the Hull City net and goalkeeper Allan McGregor made a sprawling save with his hand on the goal line. When the referee indicated to play on, there were no appeals from Chelsea players. Blues midfielder Kevin DeBruyne, a full supporter of GLT, told Sky Sports 1,
It was clearly not over the line. The technology is good so there will be no questions further. (ESPN FC)
Though the GLT worked the first round of matches, there is always a chance with any technology for some type of malfunction. The same technology and the same company are used in Ireland for hurling and gaelic football for essentially the same purposes as it is employed in the Premier League. On the same weekend where Hawk-Eye GLT made its debut in the BPL, the camera system made an error in an under 18 hurling match in Dublin, reported Reuters.
Hawk-Eye overruled the goal line umpire and incorrectly judged a ball to go wide of the goal post when its own camera images clearly showed that the ball went over the goal post, indicating what should have been a score. The Gaelic Athletic Administration (GAA) suspended the use of system for the senior hurling semifinal and said that “it had begun a review in conjunction with Hawk-Eye.”
The GAA made an official statement on the its website saying,
It is expected Hawk-Eye will be in full working order for next Sunday’s minor (under-18) and senior football semi-finals.
This error reminds us that no technology is infallable, no matter how proven it may be. Though, the use of GLT is, in the eyes of most, still the right move for professional football. It is an attempt to take presumption and human error out of the equation. The danger is when we begin to rely too much on the technology, and referees become lazy and stop putting the effort in to get into the correct physical position to make the call if necessary, should the technology fail.
Some believe that leagues should employ goal line referees, as seen in the UEFA Champions League, instead of GLT so that matches would have a designated set of eyes to watch the goal line. While this is also a step in the right direction, this system still lends itself to human error. Would it be too much to ask for both goal line referees and GLT? That’s a whole different scenario and would require 2 more referees for every BPL match, something the budget perhaps does not permit at this stage.
At the moment, the BPL systems seem to be functioning properly. It will certainly be interesting if the system makes a mistake and a game is decided by a wrong decision made by Hawk-Eye. Many would call for the removal of the system in BPL matches should such an error occur, but they forget that we already had that same issue with human error from referees. There are countless examples of matches that could have, and should have, had a different result due to a missed or wrong call from a referee. The question becomes, which methodology lends itself to error the least? At the moment, the belief is GLT. This will be a telling season for technology and its place in professional football.