Technology at the service of sport: the Hawk-Eye and football

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This technology is already used in some of the most important European leagues with the aim of eradicating the ‘ghost goals’.

A message to the referee’s watch is enough to know if the ball has crossed the goal line or not. This is how the Hawk-Eye, technology for year used in tennis, resolves the ‘ghost goals’. But how does it work in football?

Its system consists of seven cameras in each goal, which make a 3D image of the ball. This also has a microchip installed that accurately assures whether the goal line has been crossed. If it detects that the ball is over the line, the system sends a notification to the referee’s watch, who decides whether to blow the goal. This system is very reliable as the difference between whether a ball enters or not can be measured by centimetres.

Almost all major European leagues have it: The English Premier League – since 2013 – the German Bundesliga, and the Italian Serie A – both since 2015 -. It is also being used in the Champions League for the first time during this season and was also used in the last Confederations Cup. Spain is the only country that has not yet implemented this system in its football league, although it is not against it.

It is known that the Hawk-Eye is capable of resolving a game, something which is undoubtedly progress. These are some examples in which the intervention of this technology has been key in a game.

The Hawk-Eye has many defenders

Introducing a technology like this in a sport such as football is decisive in the final result of a match. That is why many football fans and professionals are asking the Professional Football League (LFP) to use it in Spanish grounds.

This request was made clear in the Barcelona-Deportivo last December. Although Barcelona won (4-0), the referee did not award Luis Suárez’s goal, which should have gone on the scoreboard.


It caused monumental controversy, not only because the ‘no goal’ interfered directly with the final result – which it didn’t – but because of how close this was to the Real Madrid-Barcelona, six days later. The occurrence of such an error in a game as important as the ‘Clásico’ was something that the Professional Football League could not afford, since most of the European leagues are already remedying these errors by introducing technology. In addition, with this goal, that already meant three ‘ghost goals’ that should have been awarded to Barça until that date.

The technology can fail

The aim of introducing this system in football is to solve problems and to move forward technically to avoid ‘ghost goals’ as far as possible.

Even so, the technology is not infallible and sometimes it can be wrong. This was the case of the game between Troyes and Amiens in French Ligue 1. From a Troyes corner, striker Hyun-Jun Suk headed, and the ball crashed into the crossbar, bouncing over the goal line and the Hawk-Eye considering it valid.

At the protests of the Amiens players and after seeing the move on a screen, the referee annulled the goal nine minutes later. This ruling – and others later – propitiated the decision of the French League to suspend the use of this technology in its competitions.

In addition to the French League, the Spanish League does not have this system either, so it is the criteria of the linesman and the referee that rule whether a move ends in a goal or not. Even so, the Professional Football League (LFP) in the coming season will be using the VAR (Video Assistant Referee), a system of cameras that allows four types of moves to be reviewed: goals, penalties, red cards and moves in which it is difficult to identify a player.

Unlike the Hawk-Eye, VAR requires interpretation by video assistants and the referee. They are two different technologies, but can be combined to achieve greater accuracy. The VAR was used at the past Club World Cup, although not without controversy. In the game that Real Madrid played against Al-Jazzira, a goal by Casemiro was annulled, but was considered valid minutes later. Even so, the referee decided to stop the game and check the VAR monitors. It was then when he located an offside by Benzema and again annulled the goal.

What the Hawk-Eye doesn’t see, doesn’t exist

Although it is not accurate on many occasions, the truth is that this technology has the ability to change the direction of a game and to benefit or harm the same team on different days.

A good example of this is what was experienced in the Dutch League -Eredivise-, in which only some teams have this system. This means that, in some stadiums, it is technology that says what is a goal, while in others the referee must make the decision without technological help.

Well, last season saw both sides of the coin. In the match between Feyenoord and PSV, Feyenoord were benefited by a goal that the Hawk-Eye detected as valid by centimetres. Feyenoord won the match 2-1 and were consolidated as the leaders of the Dutch league.

Football and controversy often go hand in hand. The Hawk-Eye was not going to be any less so, and has therefore been the subject of debate. Even so, it must be recognised that its use in a sport such as football is a great step forward.

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