Football: League to try goal force-fields

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The Independent Online
THE PREMIER LEAGUE is developing force-field technology to detect whether a football has crossed the goal-line or not. Its introduction to the professional game - perhaps within two years - could put an end to footballing injustices and the "Did it, didn't it?" arguments spawned by events such as England's third goal in the 1966 World Cup win over West Germany.

The League's revolutionary invention is being produced jointly by Sports Control Systems - a private company that specialises in tools which assist sporting officials - and Mitre, the League's official ball manufacturer. The plans for the new system are a closely-guarded secret, but it is understood that they involve the ball being coated with a substance that can be detected by sensors inside the goalmouth. A signal is then sent to the referee when the ball is wholly over the line.

"It will involve some kind of force-field around the goal," Philip Don, the League's referees' officer, said yesterday. "Before the end of the season we should have some form of prototype in place in a training-field environment." He added that the Football Association has been given permission by Fifa, football's world governing body, to conduct an experiment on goal-line technology this season. If successful, the idea could be adopted worldwide.

Don added that Fifa has said that any systems that do not use cameras can be explored. Cameras have been ruled out because they rely on human interpretation of pictures and can be obstructed by players or mud. The League's new system should not be hindered by such obstacles.

"It could work on the same principle as a metal detector at an airport, using a metallised coating on the ball and detectors around the goal," Barry Fox, a writer on technology and new inventions for the New Scientist, said.

Don revealed the force-fields plan yesterday after the official launch of the Referees Communication System, a three-way radio transceiver that will be used by all Premiership referees and linesman from this Saturday. The idea behind the RCS equipment is to speed up communications between the officials and allow the line officials to inform the referee more quickly about incidents off the ball. These might include anything from off-the-ball fouls to teams wanting to make substitutions. The fourth official will not be wired up.

Leeds United yesterday learned that the away leg of their Uefa Cup match against Partizan Belgrade will be staged in the Netherlands next Tuesday. European football's governing body moved the first round first leg away from the Yugoslav capital, as commercial flights to Belgrade have not resumed following the Kosovo conflict.

The venue will be the Abe Lenstra stadium in Heerenveen, which has a capacity of just 13,500. There are fears that many fans could make their own way to the Netherlands and try to pay on the gate, leading to potential security problems.

The Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, said: "Unfortunately our reputation abroad is not good because of fans' indiscretions in the past. The last thing we want after this very long wait to establish the venue for the game is for there to be even the merest hint of trouble."

Uefa is proposing to impose two transfer windows in the English season. It wants to standardise transfer deadlines across the continent in time for the 2000-01 season by limiting moves to two specific periods.

The proposal suggests the first transfer period should be between the last day of the championship and 15 September for domestic moves, or 31 August for international transfers. The second period would be between 15 December and 31 January, the deadline for registering players for the later stages of Uefa club competitions.