Goal Line Technology in football and the Laws of the Game

Published 19 June 2013 | Authored by: Joshua Kaye

In this, the first in a series of two blogs, Josh Kaye looks at the history of GLT, including the additions to the FIFA Laws of the Game; the second part will examine the arguments surrounding its use.

As no doubt most readers of this blog are aware, this year will see the introduction of Goal Line Technology (GLT) in football. Its introduction will have the biggest impact on the sport since the introduction of the backpass rule in 1992.

Football fans and media pundits have long argued for the introduction of technology to assist referees. However, the introduction of GLT has not been easy. High powered individuals including Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini (President of FIFA and UEFA respectively) have stalled its introduction.

 

The Current Rules

Law 10 of the FIFA Laws of the Game1 defines a goal as being when the “whole of the ball passes over the goal line …”. However, establishing whether the ball has completely crossed the line is not as easy as it seems.

Football is played at high speed and the measurements involved are relatively small, take for example Law 1 of FIFA Laws of the Game 'the field of play’ that states that the goal line must not be more than 12cm thick and Law 2 'the ball’’ that states that the ball must have a circumference between 60cm – 70cm. The margin for error when awarding a goal is significant and the question of their validity will always be vital to the outcome of the game.

 

High Profile Incidents

There have been a number of incidents that have fuelled calls for the introduction of GLT. One of the first examples that sparked debate was Geoff Hurst’s extra time goal at the World Cup 1966. In this instance the ball struck the underside of the bar and bounced very close to the line. A goal was awarded, and it has become one of the most famous examples of a questionable goal decision. 

The debate was thrust back into the limelight some 40 years later following a dubious decision made during a Premier League game between Tottenham and Manchester United. A shot from the halfway line was judged by both the referee and the linesman as being successfully saved by the United keeper. Television replays clearly showed that the ball was, in fact, well over the line.
This incident was widely debated in the and a survey conducted by the BBC revealed that, out of 80,000 fans surveyed, 85% believed video technology needed to be introduced in football3.

The media coverage forced the International Football Association Board (IFAB)4 to discuss whether GLT should be introduced. Various systems were tested but they were deemed to be inaccurate and unsatisfactory. In March 2010, the FIFA General Secretary announced that technology would not be used in the game of football “The door is closed. The decision was not to use technology at all…Technology should not enter into the game”.5

The decision was made to introduce Additional Assistant Referees6. This would offer an extra pair of eyes to assist the referee to make a decision on incidents within the penalty area.

The real turning point came following a game at the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. England were denied a goal despite the ball clearly crossing the line in a game against Germany. Many argued this goal may have changed the nature of the tie and some believe it ultimately cost England their place at the tournament.

Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, stated:

"It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to reopen the file on goal-line technology".7

IFAB did re-open the discussion on GLT during their Annual Business Meeting in October 2010. They established a set of criteria that has formed the framework for GLT introduction. They stated that any system had to:

  • apply solely to the goal line;
  • be accurate;
  • immediately indicate whether a goal had been scored and confirm within one second; and
  • communicate this to the referee’s watch by vibration and visual signal8.

Various systems were tested between 2010-2012 and, on 5 July 2012, IFAB unanimously agreed to integrate GLT into the rule book.9

 

New Rules

On the 3 August 2012, the amendments to the Laws of the Game were set out in a FIFA Circular 1315. 10

Law 10 – The Method of Scoring
Goal Line Technology (GLT) - GLT systems may be used for the purpose of verifying whether a goal has been scored to support the referee’s decision. The use of GLT must be stipulated in the respective competition rules.

Principles of GLT:

  • GLT applies solely to the goal line and only to determine whether a goal has been scored;
  • The GLT system must be in accordance with the FIFA Quality Programme for GLT;
  • The indication of whether a goal has been scored must be immediate and automatically confirmed within one second;
  • The indication of whether a goal has been scored will be communicated by the GLT system only to the match officials (via the referee’s watch, by vibration and visual signal); and
  • Requirements and specifications of GLT - If GLT is used in competition matches, the competition organisers must ensure that the system meets the requirements set out in the FIFA Quality Programme for GLT Testing Manual. This manual must be approved by the International Football Association Board. An independent testing institute must verify the accuracy and functionality of the different technology providers’ systems according to the Testing Manual.

 

Further additions were made because IFAB approved the use of Goal Line Technology either via installation on the field of play (i.e. in the goal) or inside a match ball.

Law 5 – The Referee
Where goal-line technology (GLT) is used (subject to the respective competition rules), the referee has the duty to test the technology’s functionality before the match. The tests to be performed are set out in the FIFA Quality Programme for GLT Testing Manual. If the technology does not function in accordance with the Testing Manual, the referee must not use the GLT system and must report this incident to the respective authority.

Law 1 – The Field of Play
Where goal-line technology (GLT) is used, modifications to the goal frame may be allowed. They must be in accordance with the specifications stipulated in the FIFA Quality Programme for GLT and according to the above description, “Goals”.

Law 2 – The Ball
Where goal-line technology (GLT) is used, balls with integrated technology are allowed, but they must either be “FIFA APPROVED”, “FIFA INSPECTED” or “INTERNATIONAL MATCHBALL STANDARD” (see “Decision 1”).


Adoption

These rules have been quickly embraced and the ‘GoalControl’ system is to be trialled in Brazil at the Confederations Cup 2013 and, if successful, is to be used at the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Furthermore, in April 2013, the English FA Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, announced that the Premier League had appointed Hawk-Eye to provide goal line technology systems across its 20 member clubs for use at all 380 premier league matches11.

 

Conclusion

It is clear that the road to the introduction of GLT has been difficult. IFAB, FIFA and UEFA have all been very careful to tread cautiously around the technology issue. Very specific guidelines were set down by IFAB when they started testing systems in 2010 and that has been the framework used to establish the new additions to the FIFA Laws of the Game.

However, even with the imminent introduction of GLT, the subject still sparks lively debate. There are many who argue against the introduction. Some feel GLT will have an adverse impact on the nature of the game and are concerned at where the line is drawn once technology is introduced. Will GLT open the door to further technology to assist with other decisions? Will the amateur game suffer without the benefit of such technology? Both sides of the debate will be investigated in the second blog in this series. 


1 https://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/footballdevelopment/technicalsupport/refereeing/laws-of-the-game/law/newsid=1290865.html
2 https://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/footballdevelopment/technicalsupport/refereeing/laws-of-the-game/law/newsid=1285960.html
3 https://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/4130167.stm.
4 The Laws of the Game for association football are determined by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).  IFAB is made up of representatives from the English FA, The Football Association of Wales (FAW), Northern Ireland’s FA (IFA) and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Each association has one vote apart from FIFA which has four. In order to pass a resolution at least six votes are required.

(https://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/ifab/aboutifab.html). 
5 https://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/8553463.stm
6 FIFA’s official Additional Assistant Referee document stated that the additional assistant would support the referee, identify infringements, reduce match-changing errors, deter players from committing infringements and finally improve the game (The last one was underlined). The additional assistants would not be given flags but would be able to advise the referee via radio-communication.
https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/afdeveloping/refereeing/01/09/72/32/additionalassistanrefs-backgroundpaper_e.pdf.
7 https://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/29/sepp-blatter-goalline-technology
8https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/administration/01/42/87/09/11.05.03_ifab_glt_specifications_en.pdf.
9 https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifaqualityprogramme/goal-linetechnology/02/01/77/01/gltweben.pdf.
10 https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/administration/01/67/59/87/circularno.1315-furtheramendmentstothelawsofthegame-2012_2013.pdf
11 https://www.premierleague.com/en-gb/news/news/2012-13/apr/premier-league-appoints-hawk-eye-for-goal-line-technology.html.

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About the Author

Joshua Kaye

Joshua Kaye

Joshua is a commercial solicitor with experience providing advice to businesses in the media, entertainment and technology industries. His work has included drafting and negotiating commercial agreements, advising on the use of intellectual property and providing employment advice.  His passion lies in the sports industry with a particular focus on issues regarding competition law, sponsorship and the rising importance of social media. 

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