(WFI) The inventor of the Hawk-Eye system tells World Football Insider that the International Football Association Board, football’s rule-making body, should be “honest” about its reasons for not adopting goalline technology.
Speaking exclusively to WFI, Paul Hawkins said that it is time FIFA stopped making technology a scapegoat. His company has provided groundbreaking camera systems to cricket and tennis.
Hawkins said the scientific debate has conclusively moved on as to whether goalline camera systems work, and it is now time for FIFA to decide whether it wants to pursue goalline technology as a point of principle.
“We feel we can deliver a solution that works,” Hawkins said. “It’s up to football to decide if it wants that solution.”
“I think [Sepp] Blatter and [Michel] Platini are both quite against technology.
“But at least Platini comes out and says ‘I don’t think technology is good for the game’… That I haven’t got a problem with: they’re in charge of the game, they were elected, it’s their job to decide what’s right for football and it’s not my job to tell them that they’re wrong.
“But what infuriates me is when they use technology as a scapegoat and say that they’d love to do it, but that the technology suppliers can’t deliver anything that works. It simply isn’t the case. They need to come out and be honest about their reasons for not doing it and not take the easy option.”
IFAB strike a blow
Hawkins’ comments come a week after the International Football Association Board (IFAB) postponed further debate on whether it might consider goalline technology until March 2011.
Previously IFAB had indicated a willingness to engage in a debate on goalline technology and had been involved in testing various systems, but last week’s announcement marked a significant U-turn.
FIFA’s eight-man rule-making board requires six of its members to back an amendment before it is approved.
It is made up of four FIFA representatives and representatives from the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Football Associations. Platini’s arrival on the board for its meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in March last year is believed to have signaled a change in direction.
Not only has Platini persuaded his fellow FIFA representatives (who traditionally vote as a bloc) against goalline technology, but he is believed to have also swayed the Welsh and Irish board members away as well.
England and Scotland’s IFAB representatives are still understood to favor goalline technology.
Hidden benefits of the technology
Hawkins’ frustration with football’s power brokers is palpable. He said he has no desire to impose a technological solution on football if the game doesn’t want it. But he believes that the main arguments that its opponents have put against goalline
technology – whether it works; cost; universality – have been met.
“Platini made this point that technology is expensive,” Hawkins said. “Over the course of a season it is much, much cheaper to put technology into a stadium than it is to have two additional officials [as happens in UEFA’s current experiment in the Europa League].
“If it was done, clubs would end up making money out of it. Wimbledon [tennis championships] now makes a lot of money out of Hawk- Eye because Rolex sponsor it, as would be the case in football.”
He adds that sponsorship is one of the factors behind the English Premier League’s enthusiasm for the technology.
“The Premier League are very supportive,” he insists. “They want to adopt goalline technology because they think it’s the right thing for the game. But even though it’s a number of years out, there are insurance companies saying they think it’s a perfect thing for them to sponsor in football because it’s such a good fit.”
“Done properly there is no doubt that you would recover your costs through sponsorship.”
Further down the English league ladder there could be a “cost quality” compromise if, say, Football League Two clubs wanted to adopt “goalline technology lite”.
Hawkins said that two [instead of six] cameras in each goal would provide “98 per cent” accuracy.
But he added that goalline technology doesn’t have to be applied to every game. Even at the Wimbledon tennis championships, where Hawk-Eye made its name, only the main courts use it.
“We feel the technology is there for when football decides it wants to go down this route,” Hawkins said. “I don’t want to push my technology in places where it’s not wanted, so if people feel football is best without technology, we’re not going to lobby because I don’t want to force something onto someone.
“But if they say we want it, but we can’t because the technology doesn’t work then we’ll lobby harder.
“I think the most likely scenario is what happened in tennis [when Serena Williams suffered three bad line calls in a controversial U.S. open quarter-final with Jennifer Capriati in 2004] and if there’s a controversial goalline decision in next year’s World Cup, then I think there’ll be overwhelming media pressure to best resolve that problem.”
‘It’s different for fouls and red cards and things like that. It’s the one decision in football that’s completely definitive,” Hawkins explained.
“There’s no subjectivity – did he dive, did he not dive – and it’s not a particularly interesting talking point in the pub afterwards.”
He added: “It’s different from 1966 [when Geoff Hurst scored a controversial extra-time goal in the World Cup final]. Fans now know it is possible for us to definitively know the answer.
“If you’re trying to run the biggest sporting event in the world and the purpose of the event is to find out who the best football team in the world is, then you need to go to good efforts to ensure the officiating of that event is to a standard which puts the destiny as much as possible in the hands of the players rather than the officials.”
Written by James Corbett
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