The FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil will be the first major
international competition to employ goal-line technology (GLT). If
successful, and it simply has to be, GLT will be part and parcel of the
game from here on, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
It is one of the most contentious issues in football. The debate over whether or not to embrace video technology has been raging for years.
Rightly or wrongly it is finally here. The FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil will be the first major international competition to employ goal-line technology (GLT). If successful, and it simply has to be, GLT will be part and parcel of the game from here on, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
There is no going back. The credibility of the sport globally is at stake. It is that important.
The landscape changed in a heartbeat. The world watched in horror as Frank Lampard's long-range shot was ruled out at the 2010 World Cup despite the fact replays clearly showed the ball had crossed the German goal-line for what should have been a legitimate England goal.
The referee was behind the play, as was his assistant. From their vantage points neither could be sure which side of the line the ball had bounced on after crashing down off the crossbar. Since both officials were uncertain they could not allow the "goal" to stand.
The fallout was fast and furious. World governing body FIFA, which had rejected GLT just months before the World Cup, was forced into a complete u-turn. Such a high-profile gaffe could never be allowed to recur. Technology testing resumed and the race was on to satisfy FIFA's rigorous demands.
Accuracy and speed are paramount. GLT must be reliable in all types of weather and stadium conditions. It must also be virtually instantaneous. In a sport which has no natural break points, with the exception of half-time, FIFA mandated the information be communicated to the referee without the need to halt play.
Several companies satisfied the criteria. German firm GoalControl won the contract, and its first major test will come at the Confederations Cup. Each stadium will be equipped with 14 high-speed cameras (seven at each end) to analyze and assess any controversial goal-line incidents. If the ball crosses the line, the referee will be alerted within one second by a message on his watch.
The technology is not cheap. GLT will cost an estimated $260,000 per stadium to install, plus an additional $4,000 per match to operate. FIFA has no choice but to foot the bill. The integrity of the World Cup itself was called into question in South Africa and the game's rulers can no longer be seen to ignore the obvious advantage of video evidence.
Guesswork is no longer a factor. While most fans accept that refereeing errors can happen because the officials are human, there is no excuse for not adopting GLT. Football, as a whole, must get it right to preserve the game's credibility.
The English Premier League, the world's most watched domestic league, will have GLT from the start of the next season in August, while Major League Soccer is adopting a wait-and-see approach. MLS commissioner Don Garber makes the argument that GLT is very expensive for the relatively few times it is actually needed.
FIFA cannot afford such a cautious attitude. GLT's eye in the sky is here to stay.