Neil Lennon was in a particularly blunt and prickly mood after watching his side draw…
To some, it was obvious, even on first viewing. Oli Shaw was certainly sure that his shot had crossed the line, wheeling away in celebration. Indeed, replays showed that the Hibernian striker’s effort should have counted, but the officials failed to spot it. The Edinburgh derby ended 0-0 and Shaw was left to reflect on what could, and should, have been.
The incident sparked heated discussion across the sport concerning technology, or rather the lack of it, in Scottish football. Had last night’s game been played in the Premier League, Shaw’s goal would have been spotted and Hibs would have come away from Tynecastle with three extremely valuable points, not to mention bragging rights.
Neil Lennon said the incident made “a mockery of the game,” implying that Scotland’s referees should be afforded the same aids as their counterparts in England and around Europe are. This prompted a SPFL spokesperson to reiterate that there are no plans for the league to install goal line technology despite Shaw’s ghost goal.
“Goal-line technology remains unaffordable,” the spokesperson told the BBC. “It would cost millions to install at all Scottish Premiership grounds. Goal-line technology has been a proven aid to referee decision-making where it has been installed around the world and is a very good example of technology enhancing the game. In common with most other leagues outside the most wealthy in Europe however, goal line technology remains unaffordable for the SPFL.”
So how much would the installation of goal line actually cost? Is it really “unaffordable” for SPFL, or more specifically Scottish Premiership, clubs? Is Lennon justified in his rage? Will Shaw’s ghost goal at Tynecastle on Wednesday night be looked back upon as some sort of watershed moment in the Scottish game?
Going on the figures provided by the Premier League regarding their installation of the technology from the start of the 2013/14 season, the rough cost of Hawk-Eye (the Sony-owned firm awarded the contract) is £250,000 per ground. Of course, much of that is saddled by the Premier League itself. Individually, each Premier League club is required to pay £85,000 a season for the operation of Hawk-Eye at their ground, with a one-off installation cost of £30-50,000.
Hawk-Eye are the industry leader, not just in football but across sport in general, but it’s possible that the SPFL could look to another manufacturer for a cheaper option. German firm Cairos, for instance, also pitched for the Premier League contract at a cheaper cost of around £65,000 per club per season. Ultimately, the Premier League had concerns over battery life and the need to change the ball to incorporate the chip and so opted for the more expensive, yet more comprehensive, Hawk-Eye.
Another German firm called GoalControl also provided FIFA with goal line technology for the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. Almost every system utilises a number of high speed cameras positioned around the goal to determine whether the ball has crossed the line, but there can be drastic variance in the cost. That’s where the SPFL could perhaps explore options.
It’s worth noting that not even La Liga has installed goal line technology due to the cost of its operation. The English Football League has also baulked at the price of installing Hawk-Eye, so the SPFL’s stance is in fact in line with the position of many leagues around Europe.
More viable is the notion that Scottish referees will one day be able to use VAR during matches, with the Scottish FA part of the discussions at International FA Board (IFAB) level regarding the implementation of the technology across the sport. VAR is, of course, can be used for much more than just goal line decisions, adding another layer of complexity, but in terms of cost, it would be far cheaper than anything designed purely to determine whether the ball has crossed the line. That could be the future for the Scottish game.