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A look at goalline technology at Euro 2016

Just before the tournament kicked off, Uefa’s executive committee confirmed that goalline technology would be in place at Euro 2016. It’s certainly here to stay - so how much of a difference has it made? We take a look…

How goalline technology came about

When England were 2-1 down in their 2010 World Cup game against Germany, a long-range shot from Frank Lampard came off the crossbar to land over the line. Yet this potential equaliser was disallowed by referee Jorge Larrionda, resulting in a 4-1 defeat and England crashing out of the tournament.

This incorrect decision didn’t directly trigger the introduction of goalline technology, but was certainly one of the most high-profile examples of referees and their assistants calling it wrong. Domestic and international football is filled with many more, from Petr Cech palming out Andy Carroll’s effort from beyond the goalline in the 2012 FA Cup Final; to Geoff Hurst’s controversial shot in the 1966 World Cup FInal - to name just a couple.

No referee or assistant is infallible. WIth so much at stake, the rationale behind goalline technology is as follows: if the capabilities exist to reduce the likelihood of mistakes being made, then why not use it?

By the beginning of this century, Hawk-Eye tech was already available. It made its debut  originally as a commentating aid in cricket before crossing over to tennis in 2005. Initial testing of the technology in football started at around the same time, but it wasn’t until July 2012 that FIFA confirmed that it could be used in competitive matches.

How does it work?

The type of technology being used at Euro 2016 is the Hawk-Eye model. Consisting of a network of high-speed video cameras dotted around a stadium, the ball’s position can be tracked with pinpoint accuracy at any given time. Crucially, this involves determining with certainty whether the ball has crossed the goalmouth - and this information is conveyed to the referee’s watch via radio transmission. GoalControl, the technology used at the 2014 World Cup works on a similar principle.

Has it made a difference at Euro 2016?

So far in the tournament, there’s yet to be an incident akin to the Frank Lampard goal where the technology has had to step into the breach in order to prevent a huge refereeing mistake being made.

Yet a glance back to the 2014 tournament reminds us of just how valuable it can be in major tournaments. Here, it was decisive in the awarding of a goal in the France and Honduras. Similarly, a goal by Bryan Ruiz for Costa Rica against Italy had echoes of the Lampard incident, and Goal Control was able to point the referee towards the right decision.

In 2016 as in 2014, it has made a difference to the spectator experience, too. Rather than just a simple verbatim replay of critical incidents, the technology allows visual and definitive confirmations to show up immediately on the big screens, such as “goal” or “no goal”.

Will it be made more widely available?

Goalline technology has been a fixture in the Premier League since the 2013-14 season. A good example of the tech in action came in 2015, when Arsenal’s unbeaten run of 10 games was broken by Swansea. Here, it was only thanks to the touchline cameras that the referee was able to state with certainty that the ball had crossed the line.    

Yet all of this comes with a price. Each Premiership club paid £250,000 to have the technology installed - on top of a £15,000 bill for obtaining Fifa’s ‘quality seal’. This is of course, small change for the top tier, but would represent a significant outlay for clubs at the lower levels. Burnley’s manager, Sean Dyche recently called for the technology to be introduced in the Championship, following a wrongly disallowed goal in their away game against Brighton towards the close of the season.  

So are we about to see this innovation rolled out across all levels of the game? An international tournament potentially provides an ‘advert’ for the technology. If we were to see goalline cameras preventing a huge injustice at the tournament final for instance, fans of lower league clubs are perhaps more likely to ask themselves, “Why don’t we have that?”

And of course, tech has the habit of becoming more affordable over time. If and when the price falls, the barriers to introducing it are lowered. Perhaps the most likely scenario will be one of gradual rollout of goalline technology throughout the lower tiers. If the tech becomes the norm, the day when even amateur clubs are using it may not be too far away.