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Goal-line technology to debut at World Cup; a boon to German company GoalControl

GoalControl won the bidding to become FIFA's official goal-line technology provider, with many suitors sure to follow.

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

With England down 2-1 in a crucial match against Germany in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, England’s Frank Lampard beat the German goalie with a shot from the edge of the box that ricochet off the crossbar, down into the mouth of the goal, and back into the playing field. Both the referee and linesman disallowed the goal, ruling instantly that it never fully crossed the line, but viewers of replay at home saw that the ball did in fact cross the line for a goal. The action continued and the match officials didn’t have the luxury of replay in order to know for sure, and their real-time ruling of no goal stood.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil marks the first World Cup in which goal line technology will be used. This means big bucks and a global reach for German start-up GoalControl, which was fortunate enough to land the big contract from FIFA and become the official goal-line technology provider of the tournament.

Referees will still have the final say on what is and isn’t a goal, but now will be equipped with digital wristbands that vibrate and display “GOAL” when GoalControl’s technology confirms a ball crossed the goal line.

BIDDING PROCESS

In April 2013, FIFA opened up a tender bidding process to four goal-line technology companies — CAIROS, GoalRef, Hawk-Eye, and GoalControl — that included presentations to FIFA executives as well as visits to Brazilian stadiums.

Costs and project management factors like staffing and installation were used to evaluate each bid, FIFA said in a statement.

Two other German-based companies, CAIROS and GoalRef, use magnetic fields around the goal line and require a chip to be inserted into each ball, while GoalControl and the Sony-owned Hawk-Eye both rely on imaging technology.

GoalControl will install 14 cameras with seven aimed directly at each goal-mouth. At a clip of 500 frames per second, images of the goal line will be digitally sent to a computer that, within a second of the ball crossing the line, will directly send a message to the special watch worn by the referee. The message is said to be “off-line” and thus not susceptible to hacking.

Images are processed in 4D where real-time X, Y, and Z coordinates are recorded as well as speed.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Kilb/The New York Times
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kilb/The New York Times

PAY DAY AWAITS GOALCONTROL

As most things related to FIFA, the terms of the deal are secretive, and FIFA preferred to keep the costs confidential. When asked how much the contract was worth, GoalControl President Dirk Broichhausen replied, “Nothing about the cost.”

It is estimated that installation of GoalControl at a single stadium will be $260,000, with costs to staff and run the system at $4,000 per game. Back-of-the-envelope calculations would suggest that operating at 12 stadiums and 64 total games would cost FIFA approximately $3.4 million.

Prior to its contract with FIFA, GoalControl generated less than $13.6 million in revenue per year. The total market for goal-line technology, which can be applied to other sports like cricket and tennis, is estimated to be $136 million, according to the company.

Even though the price tag is not known, FIFA most likely negotiated GoalControl down to a favorable wholesale price in return for the prestige of becoming the official goal-line technology provider for the World Cup — a designation that will inevitably position the German company for success in future endeavors with soccer’s many governing bodies and other international sports.

 All figures were converted using XE.com Currency Convertor with rates as of 6/9/2014

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