Soccer must move with the times, tech firms say
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Companies ready to cash in if FIFA accepts goalline technology after World Cup refereeing howlers say they are not yet convinced soccer's governing body will adopt measures common in other sports.
England and Mexico fell victim to mistakes by officials in their second-round matches on Sunday, prompting an apology from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the decision on Tuesday not to retain the refs who made them for the rest of the tournament.
Blatter, who rejected the use of goal-line technology just three months ago, said the game's governing body would look again at the issue, although he did rule out using video replays to decide possible offsides.
A German company and an English firm specialising in goalline systems welcomed Blatter's change of heart and said controversy over refereeing does nothing but detract from the beautiful game.
"The good stories are in the players and the competition, you don't need to create artificial stories by creating officiating controversy," Paul Hawkins, founder of Winchester, England-based company Hawk-Eye Innovations, told Reuters.
Debate over goal-line technology reignited at the weekend when Argentina were awarded an offside goal in their second round clash against Mexico and England were denied an equaliser in their clash against old rivals Germany.
Germans complained for decades that England were unfairly awarded the decisive goal in the 1966 World Cup final from a Geoff Hurst which bounced down from the bar, but all acknowledged that Sunday's 20-metre (65-foot) shot from midfielder Frank Lampard did cross the line.
If it had been awarded, the goal would have levelled the scores at 2-2. England went on to lose 4-1.
Oliver Braun, communications director at German firm Cairos Technologies AG, said the company's goal sensor technology would have given the equaliser.
"The first thing I thought was 'thanks for not using the technology' because I'm a Germany supporter, but of course the second thought was that it was clearly a goal," Braun said in a telephone interview.
"We're happy because when something like this happens the discussion starts again and people see that you might need technology to resolve the issue," he said.
"The Uruguayan referee will have to live with this for his whole life and that's something we don't want to happen."
Uruguayan Jorge Larrionda, who refused to award the clear England goal, and Italian Roberto Rosetti, who allowed the offside Argentina goal to stand, were not retained for the remainder of the tournament, FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday.
Hawk-Eye's ball tracking device is already used in cricket and tennis, while Cairos's "Smartball" localisation system was tested at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2007.
Any decision by soccer's governing body to accept such systems would be a huge boon to business, but both companies say any concrete change of position could prove elusive.
"We're not cracking open the champagne. There have been many times in the past when we were a lot closer to providing goal line technology than we are today," Hawkins said.
"We'll just wait to find out whether this is just a little statement to defuse the current public pressure."
(Editing by Nigel Hunt)
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