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MLS won’t adopt goal-line technology by 2014 – high cost to blame

Apr 26, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT

Don_Garber

Despite Major League Soccer’s reputation as one of the world’s most tech-savvy leagues, the implementation of goal-line technology isn’t something fans will be seeing anytime soon.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber informed the Associated Press Sports Editors that the league won’t adopt goal-line technology for the 2014 season due to the exorbitant cost associated with implementing one of the four FIFA-approved systems: GoalControl-4D, Hawk-Eye, GoalRef and Cairos.

According to the AP, installation alone of GoalControl would cost approximately $260,000 per stadium and an additional $3,900 per game. The numbers have forced MLS to take a step back and contemplate what Garber calls “prioritizing how we spend our money.”

“[The cost] had us take a step back and pause and try to figure out: Is the value of having goal-line technology worth investing millions and millions and millions of dollars for the handful of moments where it’s relevant?” he said. “And our view has been that we’re going to wait and see how it works out. We certainly don’t need to be the first league that has it.”

Instead, the league will spend the next few seasons monitoring the technology to determine which source best fits MLS’ needs of balancing accuracy and success with cost. FIFA’s GoalControl-4D system, which will be used in World Cup 2014, and the Premier League’s Hawk-Eye system, which debuts next fall, are widely accepted as industry leaders at this point.

There’s no question that MLS will adopt goal-line technology at some point in the near future. Indeed, the due diligence process has been ongoing for some time now.  According to Nelson Rodriguez, vice president of competition and game operations, “Major League Soccer is a strong proponent of using technology in soccer where it enhances the game. We have met with multiple goal-line technology system manufacturers and we are carefully monitoring FIFA’s plans to implement one of them.

“As of today, the time required to purchase, receive, install and properly test the equipment precludes MLS from considering the approved system for use in our 2014 season, but we are hopeful that the system proves successful in the Confederations Cup and becomes more feasible for us in subsequent years.”

The news should not come as a major shock to MLS supporters. Taking on such high costs for an unproven product that will undoubtedly go through some growing pains in its first few years isn’t a wise investment for a streamlined, single-entity league. Holding off on immediate adoption will give the goal-line tech market time to mature, become more competitive and ultimately assure MLS a better deal on a better product.

There is, however, something depressing about the decision. For a league that champions itself on being on the forefront of the synthesis of soccer and technology, one would think MLS would be actively conjuring up means to implement the product regardless of the cost. Do they need to be first in line? No. It makes sense that a cash-flush entity like the Premier League is pioneering the movement. But there is something to being one of the early adopters.

It’s foreseeable that such a system could be implemented through sponsorship. MLS has yet to confirm or deny whether they are taking pitches from white knights looking to invest in America’s burgeoning soccer market but surely there are companies capable of shelling out a couple million in exchange for the acquisition of naming rights.

Adidas, Nike, Under Armor and Warrior all dump massive amounts of money on yearly kit sponsorships throughout the world. Even non-soccer oriented companies like Siemens, AON and Standard Chartered could look to get involved. Or, perhaps even more appropriate for a vision-based tech system, Ray Ban, Oakley or Lens Crafters could look to get in on the ground level.

Is it huge issue that MLS won’t be adopting goal-line technology by 2014? No. It’s smart to take time to allow the goal-line technology market to mature. But cost shouldn’t be the predominant reason threatening the league’s cutting edge status.

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