Goal line technology: is GLT the new LHC?

I know something is up when I get consecutive phone calls from the press to comment on the same subject.  Most recently this was about goal-line technology and  I wondered what I could say that hadn’t already been said.  And then I realised what the story was:  that goal-line technology is a non-story very much like the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The next in goal line technology?

Those in the UK may remember back in 2009 the moment when the LHC was switched on and the search for the Higg’s boson – the ‘God Particle’ – began (so-called because it was thought to be so crucial to our understanding of physics).  There was a lengthy introduction, a live feed, a 3 – 2 – 1 and the commentator dramatically announcing, “and there we have it, the Large Hadron Collider is now on, and… and….”  a long pause.  Followed by a technical hitch (even nuclear scientists get it wrong) and by an even longer pause (of about a year).

The point is, that once we start using goal-line technology, it will only actually come into action very rarely and even then we won’t see anything.  As a reminder, FIFA is trialling two technologies – one from Hawkeye and another from Goalref.  The former uses camera tracking while the latter uses a  sensor in the ball that interacts with emitters in the goal, but the outcome is the same: if the ball is over the line then a watch worn by the referee vibrates.

The sensational drama unfolding before you will be that the referee will blow his whistle and award a goal.  Not something entirely unexpected if we all thought it was a goal anyway.  The controversy will be whether the goal-line technology was actually switched on, whether it worked, whether the watch vibrated, and whether the referee had already decided that it was a goal anyway.

I suppose, all I’m saying is, don’t hold your breath for a dramatic event.  The ‘Goal Particle’ will happen eventually but whether it will lead to football as the origin of the Universe I’m really not sure.


About stevehaake

Steve did a first degree in Physics at the University of Leeds before landing two job offers: the first with BT turned out to be in a porta-cabin in the middle of a marsh, while the second was supposed to be image processing but was really smart-bomb design. This left a third option – a PhD in the mechanics of golf ball impacts on golf greens for a person who’d never hit a golf ball. It was a simple choice (the PhD if you didn’t guess) which led 25 years later to being head of a research team of 30-40 looking into similarly unlikely topics. Highlights of the career so far? The early years setting up the ISEA with the likes of Steve Mather, Ron Thompson, Clive Grant and Ron Morgan; the fact that the 1st International Conference on Sports Engineering in Sheffield in 1996 didn’t also turn out to be the last; and getting out the first issue of the first journal on Sports Engineering in 1998. The absolute high point, though, was being in the British Club in Singapore as a guest of the High Commission when the bid for the 2012 Olympics was announced. This has led to the team delivering projects with Olympic athletes that every scientist with a love of sport can only dream of. Steve is now a Senior Media Fellow funded by the EPSRC to encourage the public to engage in science, particularly in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

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