VAR and GLT– why they are vital for football to develop

Written by Callum Murison

We’ve all seen it. The 2010 World Cup. England stream forward in large numbers: the stadium roaring in support as they run. A Germany defender gets a tackle in, which rebounds to legendary midfielder Frank Lampard who, first time, volleys it over keeper Manuel Neuer. It clips the crossbar, bounces to the ground, and rebounds safely into the arms of the Germany number1.

There was only one issue: the ball crossed the line – it was a goal for England and Frank Lampard – but it was not given! Since then, the frequency at which decisions such as this were being incorrectly taken has resulted in the introduction of goal-line technology – but not in all of the leagues. So, what is goal-line technology and what are its benefits?

Goal line technology is a collection of multiple electronic systems used to determine when (or if) the football has crossed over the line, in the occasions when the margin is so close that the referee and linesman are unable to accurately determine whether or not it should stand. First implemented properly during the 2013-14 Premier League season and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there are a few different methods used (as of 2016):

  • Goalcontrol – a German system used at the 2014 World Cup. 14 high-speed cameras are used to track the flight of the ball – 7 cameras are pointed at each goal.
  • Hawk-eye – already used extensively, most notably in tennis, uses a similar system of cameras to track the flight of the ball. If only a couple of the seven cameras at goal are blocked, the system is designed to still work.
  • Cairos/Adidas GLT system – this system is not based around cameras but around the fascinating world of electromagnetics. A sensor is embedded in the ball which detects the magnetic field of thin wires which run underneath the penalty box. This allows the sensor to determine when the ball has crossed the goal-line.

Although, in my opinion, the benefits of goal-line technology (GLT) massively outweigh the downsides, I guess we’d better look at the cons. Or con…

The main issue with GLT is the price. It is extortionate. According to an article written in 2016, when the system was introduced in the Premier League, it cost each team £250,000 to install. Currently, the system is not used in Spain’s La Liga, as president Javier Tebas said that goal line technology available for their use was still too expensive. However, Spain are going to introduce VAR (Video Assistant Referee) to help with decision making. VAR is when footage is recalled to a “head referee”, who can analyse the video and determine the correct decision to be made. It is more to do with red card and penalty decisions currently, because leagues using VAR (not many!) generally already have goal-line technology to help out anyway!

Whilst goal-line technology is extremely beneficial to the game, it is clear that many leagues are still reluctant to use it due to the cost of implementing and then running the system on a regular basis. Until the price decreases, it is clear to see that there are always going to be some controversial decisions in the beautiful game but, hopefully, they do not have a negative impact on any bad press on contentious decisions and dubious refereeing.

The game must go on…

About the author

Callum Murison

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