All That Glitters Is Not GLT or “Don’t Attend Your Own Funeral as a Guy Named Phil Shipley”
Posted on June 20, 2012 3:23 pm
If a nervous, furtive Hungarian wearing a fake beard and an air of desperation slipped through the back streets of Donetsk, Ukraine in the wee hours of the morning today, ducking in and out of the kind of dark, cheerless bar where anything is available for a price and no one uses their real name, it’s entirely understandable.
He’d be the goal-line official from the England-Ukraine match, and former Nancy Boy Michel Platini wants him dead.
And Platini knows people.
And the reason why this poor schlub might be trying desperately to contact 90 year old ex-Nazi Odessa agents, Vatican officials and Bolivian diplomats to try and arrange passage to South America in the hold of a tramp steamer isn’t because he may or may not have blown a call.
As an experienced international footballing official widely regarded as the favorite in the soon-to-commence race to replace Sepp Blatter as the head of FIFA, the ex-France forward knows that refs blow calls all the time. All that’s required is to shake one’s head sadly for the cameras, make some noises about how taking “the human element out of the game” would be a very, very bad thing and then it’s back to Zurich in time for dinner with the Mrs.
No, the problem isn’t that the Ukrainians may have been shorted a goal. Platini couldn’t care less.
Rather, the problem is that the incident makes Platini look stupid.
Ever since Blatter’s fairly recent conversion to the pro-technology side of he Goal Line argument, Platini has been the main champion of the “human element” position.
It was Platini who announced that the solution to the problem was two extra officials who would stand around doing nothing much of value unless and until there was a close call on a goal.
Euro 2012 was to be the Grand Unveiling of this brilliant plan. Officials were selected and carefully trained. They wouldn’t have flags and they wouldn’t have whistles and they couldn’t call fouls or do much of anything else of value.
They would have one purpose and one purpose only, Platini told us: eliminating the controversy over goal/no goal calls.
A grand theory which took only a little over two weeks to come crashing down on his head while simultaneously making Sepp Blatter look smart.
“I cannot go to the 2014 World Cup without this system.”
At the moment that’s the single best argument against implementing a GLT system: it will mean not having to look at Blatter prancing and preening his way around Brazil. But alas, he wouldn’t keep his word. He’d have to be stone dead to miss out on his last hurrah.
So after the situation yesterday – and I’m still not 100% convinced that the guy got it wrong, but it just doesn’t matter – the IFAB, which is already in a steel cage death match with FIFA to avoid having to surrender at least three of those UK seats so that the President can stuff the board with lackeys, will almost certainly OK some form of GLT for Brazil 2014.
Blatter couldn’t have scripted it any better.
With all that in mind, here’s a quick rundown on the systems FIFA will chose from.
12 companies submitted products. Half were immediately rejected, including one from adidas which had promise but which adidas would not make available to anyone else, meaning that every official match in the world would be required to use an adidas ball. Cute, but FIFA said no.
Of the remaining six, two were approved, meaning that in the end FIFA will be using one of them.
Interestingly, they’re very different.
The really cool one is from Hawk-Eye in the UK, the same outfit that provides the nifty systems that world tennis uses. You’ve probably seen the graphics:
It’s ridiculously complicated, but it’s based on triangulation, using the visual images and timing data provided by high-speed video cameras at different locations around the area of play.
The system uses six cameras to triangulate and track the ball in flight,and then software calculates the ball’s location for each frame by identifying the pixels that correspond to the ball through at least two cameras.
No pauses in the action as with replay video – one of FIFA’s primary criteria – would be required.
Best of all, the graphic would then be immediately available for the TV broadcast as well as in-stadium video boards.
The other system, called Goal-ref, is a lot less sexy.
It involves using a ball equipped with some kind of magnetic jimmerhicky which, they claim, can be installed in any ball:
Sensors installed on the inside of the posts and crossbar send out bursts of electronic waves and when the ball crosses the goal line an audio signal is sent to the referee’s headset.
Hawk-Eye is incredibly expensive but way cool. Goal-Ref is much cheaper and easier but far less fun.
Some people are in fact suggesting that instead of only approving one system FIFA should go ahead and approve both of them.
World Cup, Euro and major qualifying matches could use Hawk-Eye – they might even find a way to force the broadcasters to foot the bill in return for the rights to the images – while other matches could use the simpler (read: cheaper) system.
Either way, thanks to the poor guy currently holed up in a cheap hotel on the wrong side of Donetsk while working on changing his name to Phil Shipley, we’re almost certainly going to be seeing at least one of them very shortly.