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Fifa At Rochdale FC To Test Goal-Line Cameras

Thu 24th Nov 2011 | IT & Technology

Fifa representatives are visiting Rochdale FC's home ground to see whether a camera system in the goals can tell referees for certain whenever the ball crosses the line.

Spotland, home to the League One outfit, stands to take a proud part in a potentially historic development in the game, if Goalminder - the brainchild of two Lancashire-based businessmen - passes a series of stringent tests.

The researchers will spend around 13 hours putting Goalminder through its paces in the town, famed more for Gracie Fields than for its footballing exploits.

The Fifa test team spent Tuesday at Southampton's home, St Mary's, looking at Hawk-Eye, already used in other sports including cricket and tennis.

But Goalminder is different, utilising a total of 24 cameras implanted in the goalposts, 16 of them concentrating solely on the goal-line.

A further eight cameras look outward, bringing the possibility of the use of footage commercially by TV companies and coaches at top football clubs.

Goalminder's founders say data from the cameras is processed instantaneously by a box behind the goal, and a verdict on whether the ball has crossed the line is transmitted within one second to a referee's wristwatch.

The strict testing regime is being carried out behind closed doors, but news of the researchers' visit to Rochdale will reassure football fans that the technology is finally on its way.

The Rochdale tests are part of the first phase of trials of nine European-based systems.

Former Manchester United player Lee Sharpe is endorsing Goalminder.

"The technology is there now where if the ball crosses the line, you get a little bleep or a flashing light or something like that straight away then, yeah, I say bring it in," he said.

"If it's going to take a couple of seconds to stop and take a look at it then you can't do it. I think it needs to come in."

The system's inventor, electrician Harry Barnes, patented the technology in the 1990s and has watched it improve ever since.

He told Sky News: "If you take my system, we have eight cameras in each post, eight cameras in the crossbar. You get a definitive shot of the ball crossing the line, straight in line where the camera should be, no error. (It's a) fantastic system."

The aim - accepted now by Fifa as long as a reliable system can be found - is to rule out the possibility that a clear goal, like Frank Lampard's against Germany in the last World Cup, could be missed by the officials.

Goalminder would cost £100,000 to install in grounds.

Its founders - including director David Parden - have made only losses on it to date, but stand to make millions.

Mr Parden said: "All we've done is put money in for 14 years. Me personally, and Harry, and I suppose all the others over the years, we must have put in £100,000 each."

But, he added: "Over 20 years, you could be making hundreds of millions."

A final decision on whether to adopt the technology - and, if so, which systems to go with - is expected next July, following a second round of testing in March.

 

Meanwhile FA general secretary, Alex Horne has said that goal-line technology could be used as early as next season in the Premier League.

Horne, told the BBC that if one or more of the systems currently being tested works then the laws governing football are likely to change.

"I think goal-line technology would be a huge boost for the game," said Horne.

"For years we've thought this was a good addition to referees' armoury."

Nine systems are currently under review by an independent testing authority employed by Fifa. A final decision is expected to be made in July 2012.

Horne recently indicated he believed the 2012-13 season would come too soon to see goal-line technology adopted.

But his comments now indicate that a fundamental change to football's rules could be implemented by the start of next season.

"It's possible we could see [goal-line technology] in the Premier League as early as 2012-13," he said.

"It's easy to make mistakes and we've all seen examples where the referee and assistant referee can't see if a ball has crossed the line or not.

"We need to support them in decision-making."

Fifa were previously opposed to the use of technology in football, preferring that decisions remained in the hands of match officials.

That opinion changed following England's game against Germany in the 2010 South Africa World Cup when Frank Lampard's shot on goal was wrongly adjudged not to have crossed the line.

Football's law-making body, the International Football Association Board, is due to assess the results of the current testing phase in March at a meeting in London.

Companies that have matched the strict criteria laid down by Fifa will then be invited to a second phase of testing which will take place between March and June 2012.

IFAB is then due to meet again in July 2012 when a decision on whether to allow goal-line technology will be made using the data from both test phases.

IFAB is composed of the the FA, Irish FA, Welsh FA and Scottish FA - who all receive one vote.

Fifa, who act on behalf of the rest of the world, have four votes.

IFAB decisions must be approved by three-quarters of its members, which means Fifa's approval is necessary for any change to the law.

With that deadline of July 2012, Horne did admit it could take too long for everything to be fully tested.

He added: "Whether there is enough time for the technology to be bought, paid for and put into any league or competition for next season, I'm not sure.

"It would be really tight - but it might be possible for next season."

Other sports have already embraced technology with the Winchester-based company Hawk-Eye providing tennis players with the ability to challenge line calls.

They are now seeking to extend their expertise to football and their goal-line system was assessed on Tuesday with all nine competing companies due to be analysed before the end of the year.

The Adidas-backed firm Cairos, whose system utilises an electronic sensor inside the match ball and electromagnetic strips buried under the goal and penalty area lines, are also in contention.

Fifa's testers will travel to League One side Rochdale on Thursday to test "Goalminder", the brainchild of inventors Harry Barnes and David Parden.

Barnes and Parden, both Bolton Wanderers fans, were outraged when a Gerry Taggart goal for their team was disallowed in 1997 and the club went on to be relegated.

Together they patented a system after experimenting with drain pipes and CCTV cameras in Parden's garage.

Fourteen years later their system - which will retail initially at around £100,000 for a set of two goalposts - uses up to 24 high-definition cameras embedded inside the goalposts.

They claim that the cameras can detect almost instantly if a ball has crossed the line. The information collected by the cameras is then verified by a computer using three-dimensional imaging software located next to the pitch.

If a goal has been scored, an encrypted signal is sent to the referee's wrist watch which triggers a vibration and a visual notice.

Crucially the entire process takes less than a second, ensuring there is no delay to the game.

With the potential for commercial revenues streaming from their ability to show broadcasters high definition images of goal-line incidents the founders hope Fifa will see the other benefits of their design.

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