Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 19 News List

NHL sets example for FIFA with technology

ELECTRONIC EYE Soccer's world governing body is looking at following the example of ice hockey and other sports by introducing technology to help avoid refereeing errors


Two moments in World Cup history are guaranteed to start arguments between soccer fans -- Geoff Hurst's controversial goal in the final for England in 1966 and Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" strike for Argentina 20 years later.

Adding fuel to bar room disputes, modern TV technology now shows up egregious errors by referees who wrongly disallow or award goals when the ball did not cross the line.

That is why FIFA, world soccer's governing body, is considering bringing the sport into the 21st century by looking at introducing goal line technology.

It is not a novel idea -- tennis, basketball, rugby and football have used computer technology or video replays for years to help officials make the right call.

In ice hockey, the use of video to show if the puck has crossed the goal line has become a familiar feature of National Hockey League (NHL) games for a decade.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said goal line technology will be in place at this year's World Club Cup in Tokyo. A FIFA committee is assessing various forms of technology and whatever they choose will be operational by the December tournament.

The governing body opposes other forms of instant replays for judgment calls such as whether Maradona headed or handled the ball in Argentina's 2-1 quarter-final win in Mexico City.

FIFA, which is studying camera-based goal line technology as well as a "smartball" containing a computer chip, could do worse than look at the example of the NHL.

Mike Murphy, the league's senior vice president for Hockey Operations, said cameras above goals were introduced around 1993.

"There was concern because some goals were going past the goalie and coming out or a goalie gloved the puck over the line and pushed it out," he said.

"We were getting too many mistakes," he said of the system where a judge behind each goal decided whether to turn on the red light to signal that a goal had been scored.

"It's crucial because a goal in soccer is even more important than in hockey because there are fewer [scored]."

A video goal judge at each NHL game has the technology to monitor all plays and overrule the referee if there is video evidence the official missed a goal or awarded one in error.

"But you have to do it before the next stoppage in play," Murphy said. "We like it done in two and a half minutes."

"If the ref does not call a goal and play continues, but the judge believes the puck was over the line, he can call for a review at the next stoppage," Murphy said. "We then have to conclusively find the puck in the net [on video]."

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