Soccer Goal-Line Company Seeks to Lock Up Long-Term Contracts

One of the two companies approved by soccer’s lawmakers to provide technology to settle disputed goals says it wants to sign long contracts with leagues and federations before new entrants join the market.

Germany’s Fraunhofer IIS’s Goal Ref unit and Sony Corp. (6758)’s Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd. were the only companies to pass the International Football Association Board tests requiring decisions to be transmitted to referees within a second.

“The length of the contracts depends on the leagues,” Rene Dunkler, a marketing official for Fraunhofer, said in an interview at the Leader’s in Football conference in London. “But if you look at the media deals they’re typically three or even five years.”

Hawk-Eye and Goal Ref will be unveiled at this year’s Club World Cup in Japan. Both were tested at official games after FIFA President Sepp Blatter reversed his opposition to the introduction of technology following the 2010 World Cup. At that event, officials failed to spot a shot by England’s Frank Lampard had crossed the line in a knockout game against Germany.

“Leagues have been very interested because they know the problem with goal-line decisions,” Dunkler said. “Statistically there’s roughly one controversial line call per month in Europe’s big five leagues.”

England’s Premier League put out a statement supporting the decision of the sport’s rule-making board to approve the technology. Michel Platini, president of European soccer’s governing body, opposes the use of artificial aids.

“You will never convince me on technology and I will not change at the age of 57,” Platini told reporters in Monte Carlo on Aug. 31. “Technology assisting referee: I say, no. My idea is to help referees by putting up more referees.”

Matches in UEFA competitions like this summer’s European Championship and the top club competition, the Champions League, have additional assistant referees stationed behind the goals.

Final Decision

Dunkler said technology is there to assist referees, not replace them.

“Everybody drives a car but they also have navigation systems and brake assistance to help them,” he said. “I agree with Platini: Referees will have the final decision.”

Goal Ref uses a metal coil in a ball and a specially designed goal with a magnetic field. Hawk-Eye, which provides assistance to line calls in tennis and cricket, used a number of video cameras to determine decisions. Both met soccer’s requirements under tests carried out by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. Eighteen companies started the first test phase two years ago.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tariq Panja in London on at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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