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A few thoughts about Major League Soccer and goal-line technology

Jul 5, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT

Soccer Uefa Goal Line TechnologyUEFA has called on FIFA's law-making panel to delay a decision on approving goal line technology AP

FIFA inched closer to getting goal-line technology as the International Football Association Board (IFAB) voted in favor of both the GoalRef and Hawk-Eye systems. The plan calls for a debut at the Club World Cup in December, with individual leagues and competitions being able to decide if they want to use the technology or not going forward.

What does it mean for MLS, a vocal supporter of goal-line technology?

In June, I spoke with Nelson Rodriguez, EVP of Competition and Game Operations, about plans for the future. (Ironically, Ukraine scored the now-famous non-goal goal while we were talking.)

Rodriguez reiterated that MLS wants to get involved. “We’re very comfortable being at the forefront and being a leader in this area,” he said.

There are, however, issues with how quickly one of the systems can be implemented. If MLS decides to go with Hawk-Eye — similar to what the company uses at tennis matches — can the camera manufacturer produce enough cameras in time? If GoalRef is the choice, does the chip technology they use jive with the agreement MLS has with adidas to provide the balls?

And then there’s the money: “There’s a cost factor,” Rodriguez said, indicating that MLS would bear the financial responsibility for installing the technology. “When you have 18 venues, that starts to matter.”

That’s not on insignificant amount of cash, either. A Daily Mail story put the cost for Hawk-Eye around $375,000 per stadium with Goal-Ref being “significantly lower,” but still, well, significant.

That said, goal-line technology is coming to MLS, albeit in a responsible manner.

“We are open-minded and fairly committed to doing something along these lines, but we won’t do it until we are convinced that we can institute it in a way that will prove to be successful and equitable,” he said. “We can’t have a system that’s only in half our venues.”

Translation: Think sooner rather than later, but perhaps not immediately.

  1. joeyt360 - Jul 5, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    Here’s an idea: start with the playoffs. Then you only have to do it in 8 stadiums (since only 8 of the 10 playoff teams will actually host a game) and you don’t have to worry about the equities of it.

  2. ndnut - Jul 5, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    But the 8 teams change every year, and I’m not sure how portable the 12 cameras are (I’m assuming adidas won’t put chips in the balls, which is another situation all together).

    • joeyt360 - Jul 5, 2012 at 7:56 PM

      I just mean for this season, you start with the playoffs, then next year you can roll out league-wide.

  3. ndnut - Jul 5, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    And if there’s a glitch? If the money isn’t there? There needs to be a back-up plan.

  4. wesbadia - Jul 6, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    The most logical way to do this is roll it out slowly over a trial period. It makes no economic sense to the league to try to implement this system permanently considering the season is half-way over now and the cost of doing it league-wide in less than 8 months is almost impossible. Also, all technology is subject to glitches upon new installations and applications, regardless of how long it has been around. A test period would resolve all this while not impacting games it’s initially used in.

    Start with MLS Cup this year and keep the results of it confidential. Then expand to maybe five or six venues in 2013 and use it for an entire season. If the results are promising and there’s a significant improvement in quality of officiating based on those results, implement it in all venues for 2014 season. But the league needs to be aware that the potential to spend large quantities of cash in a short period of time will always be high. This tech is most likely the way to go, and if those few venues they test it in prove to benefit, then MLS will need the logistics and implementation ready to go so it’s fully-installed for 2014. You can’t rush this out, otherwise you’ll end up with piss poor results and more trouble than it’ll fix.

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