FIFA has announced its intention to be using some modern advancements at the 2014 World Cup competition in Brazil, including the use of goal-line technology. In addition to the video monitoring, the foam-like substance referred to as “vanishing spray” will be used to mark free kicks as a deterrent to defender encroachment in those instances. This spray makes it clear for players on both sides where the ball is spotted and how far back opponents must stay. Moments after the kick is taken, the foamy marks disappear from view.
The “vanishing spray” has been used by Major League Soccer (MLS) with great success. In addition to expediting the match, it also provides a visual reference for newer viewers of the game that draws them in and helps their understanding. It has provided a talking point for MLS commentators looking for ways to engage an American audience that has been resistant to learning the game well. There is a hope among many who would like to see soccer a more prevalent part of the American sports scene, that these tools will provide the same type of engagement in audiences for the FIFA World Cup. In fact, graphics illustrating shots on goal with images from the goal-line technology have been used gratuitously as part of the color commentary all season long in EPL television coverage.
The goal-line technology that FIFA will be using at the World Cup has been in place for the English Premier League (EPL) this year, and has met with positive reviews both from players and fans alike. The “hawkeye” system has been used in professional tennis tournaments for years now to identify shots on or over boundary lines, and the goal-line technology that is going to be featured by FIFA during the World Cup is very similar to that . The system that is being used in the EPL, the model for the World Cup system, uses a special watch which is worn by the referee and tied to the goal-line sensors. Once the ball has crossed the line, a signal is sent to the watch so that the referee is able to know immediately and certainly that a goal has been scored. There is no delay in the game, and there is no question about whether or not a referee or assistant had a proper vantage point of the shot.
The traditional arguments against including technology in sports usually revolve around the implementation. The use of video replay in American football and baseball has met with resistance since its very suggestion because it is perceived to slow down the flow of the game. Even the professional tennis application involves a challenge by the player and a review that requires a moment to verify. The use of the watch involves no time being added at all, as the determination is instantaneous. There has been virtually no resistance to the use of either the “vanishing spray” or the video monitoring. In fact, the ability to move forward with the game with less delay has been welcomed. With FIFA using the goal-line technology and “vanishing spray” at the World Cup in Brazil, they are catering almost deliberately to the American viewing public who are accustomed to seeing that type of technological visual aid as a part of their sports coverage.
By Jim Malone