Testing goal-line technology in Hampshire
25 May ~ Last Wednesday's Senior Hampshire Cup final at St Mary's was the first match to use goal-line technology. The occasion seemed to be held in higher esteem by the men of the Hampshire FA, who hovered around in their suits looking for hands to shake, than finalists AFC Totton and Eastleigh. The Eastleigh manager, Ian Baird, was not even present, due to a prior engagement in Hong Kong. His side's 2-0 victory was acknowledged by a handful of players who slowly hoisted their arms into air. Becoming county champions may have been small beer for players with ambitions for the Blue Square Bet South play-offs, but the club's fans had a good sing-song.
The final's relatively low profile made it the ideal occasion to test goal-line technology. Having discovered that this game would be the first to do so, I contacted the Hampshire FA about the possibility of sitting in with whoever was monitoring it, so I could report on the occasion for the sake of posterity.
Unsurprisingly, my request was declined. FIFA made it clear that independent testing agency, EMPA (the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials and Science), would be the only people with access.
In March, Hawk-Eye and GoalRef were approved by football's law-makers, the International Football Association Board, to take part in what we had here – the second phase of goal-line technology testing. "Testing" was very much the operative word. It looked like clarification was needed for Eastleigh's second goal until the 2,335 present reminded each other that refereeing decisions were not to be assisted by the technology this evening – it was just a test.
I had settled for media accreditation, though quite what the FA thought somebody intended to write for a publication they had listed as "When She Comes magazine" is anyone's guess.
At half-time I wandered around the stadium looking for the goal-line technology assessor, hoping that FIFA's man was behind one of the many doors, sat alone in front of a computer screen, agonising over a series of freeze-frame replays. All I managed to uncover was a rack of club ties and polo shirts.
Defeated, I took my seat belatedly for the second-half. Hawk-eye has become part of the spectacle of tennis and cricket – albeit with the assistance of sunshine and alcohol. Could football ever be as accommodating? Mark Sanderson
On the subject...