'Roboref' runs onto the soccer field
Blown call in World Cup ushers in computer system.
During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, English player Frank Lampard took a shot that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar. The ball ricocheted, landing just inside the goal line before rolling back onto the field. The referees, however, missed the play. They ruled that the ball never entered the goal. England went on to lose the round and was eliminated from the tournament.Skip to next paragraph
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That flubbed call has led FIFA, soccer's governing body, to reverse its long resistance to on-field technology and embrace computerized referees.
"It became evident the moment [that] ... happened in South Africa in 2010," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said at a press conference last year as the organization agreed to experiment with goal-line sensors. "I have to say, 'thank you, Lampard.' " After a successful showing at the Confederation Cup this summer, goal-line technology will watch over the World Cup next year in Brazil.
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Soccer stood as one of the last major professional sports to thumb its nose at technology. For years, hardware has helped referees make better calls in tennis, basketball, hockey, baseball, cricket, and American football. As sensor systems improve – and as instant replay on television makes split-second mistakes obvious to the wider public – referees now increasingly defer to data-crunching computers.
At the 2014 World Cup, seven high-speed cameras will capture each goal from various angles around the stadium. The system, called GoalControl, can stitch together these 2-D videos into a 3-D model of the ball's position.
GoalControl works in near-real time. Less than a second after a player scores, special wristbands worn by the refs will vibrate and light up, alerting officials that the ball has entered the goal.
The system will cost $260,000 per stadium to install, according to The Associated Press, and $3,900 per match to operate.