Haunted by Ghost Goals, World Cup 2014 to Use New Goal-Line Technology

By Ricardo Stuckert/ABr (Agência Brasil [1]) [CC-BY-3.0-br (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ricardo Stuckert/ABr (Agência Brasil [1]) [CC-BY-3.0-br (], via Wikimedia Commons

A new goal-line technology will be put in place for World Cup 2014 in an effort to address the problem of ghost goals. FIFA is said to have allotted $3.5 million to pay a small German startup to provide the new goal-line technology for the famous international sporting event, as it kicks off in Brazil on the 19th.

What Is a Ghost Goal?

Also called a phantom goal, a ghost goal as a phrased in association football used to refer to a disputable decision in determining whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line. A ghost goal can go either way: it could be an actual goal for a team but was not called by the referee due to poor judgment or it could be a goal granted undeservedly.

With today’s technologies, as cameras point at the field from various angles, many would probably think that a ghost goal is almost impossible to happen. Unfortunately, it still happens as replays of video footages can be inconclusive. It happened during the 2010 World Cup in the match between England and Germany. It also happened in the England vs Ukraine bout at the UEFA Euro 2012.

The New Goal-Line Technology

FIFA appointed GoalControl as the provider of the new solution that aims to prevent the phantom goal problem in the 2014 World Cup. The company will be installing 14 cameras in each of the 12 stadiums. These cameras are designed to triangulate the motion of the ball with optimal precision. The cameras can produce footages with up to 500 images or frames per second. That’s more than three times the typical slow motion frame rate cameras take.

The company will also be installing additional sensors on the goal line. These sensors will provide instant alerts to the referee as soon as a ball crosses the line. The alert will be passe to the referee through his smartwatch. With this set in place, the referee will no longer have to refer to a replay or consult with another official before making a call.

According to GoalControl, the whole setup is connected to a powerful image processing system that monitors all movements on the pitch. All visual data are processed to properly analyze whether or not a goal has been achieved. Details that may disrupt the view of the ball cross the goal line are filtered out to provide a clear and irrefutable evidence for scoring. If a ball crosses the goal line, the referee’s smartwatch vibrates and flashes the “GOAL” sign in an instant.

By YoTuT [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By YoTuT [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Essentially, GoalControl’s solution can fully replace a referee’s role in determining scores. Of course it can’t do the other functions of a referee so it can’t still be a replacement for the referee.

The system was developed by one of GoalControl’s founders, Dirk Broichhausen. He said that he was inspired to come up with the solution after witnessing a score dispute in one soccer game he watched in Germany.

Opposition to Technology in Soccer Refereeing and Scoring

Unfortunately, there are those who oppose the use of additional technology in soccer games. One of them is UEFA President Michel Platini, an influential figure in popular European soccer games. In a CNN interview, Platini said that he is philosophically and practically against technology in soccer, as he prefers to put his faith in referees over technology. One of his arguments for the matter is that having something like GoalControl is too expensive. He is of the opinion that the money spent on the new technology is better spent on additional referees and trainings. Platini cites Italy as an example of how adding more referees can be enough to reduce scoring errors, and not as costly as installing a new goal-line technology.

Technology vs Human Judgment

There’s no question that machines are more precise in determining simple things like a soccer goal point or score. It’s impossible to match the precision of multiple cameras and sensors that don’t have biases in assessing goals. However, when the costs are taken into account, it may make sense reconsidering. $3.5 million for a new goal-line technology is definitely not a small amount. That money can be spent in the employment of more referees. It can also be used to train more game officials, which will benefit the sport in the long run. It’s understandable why soccer veterans have hesitations in being reliant in technology for functions that can be opportunities for training future soccer officials.

By Manuel Heinrich Emha (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Manuel Heinrich Emha (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s certainly nothing wrong with new technology in the world of sports. More precise score keeping is always a welcome development. However, costs can’t simply be ignored. Likewise, if the technology can negatively impact the tradition and human aspect of soccer playing and refereeing, maybe deferring the adoption of more “hi-tech” score-keeping makes sense. “Soccer tradition defenders” may be more receptive to the idea of making players wear electricity-generating smart shoes than letting technology alter the dynamics of traditional soccer gaming.