Hawk-Eye’s vision extends to soccer and beyond

BASINGSTOKE, England,  (Reuters) – Blatant foul or theatrical dive? Penalty kick or yellow card?

The company that came up with the Hawk-Eye system to settle line calls in tennis is involved in a trial of video refereeing that could end many of the disputes that give soccer a bad name, its founder says.

A two-year trial being carried out with little fanfare in the top Dutch division is the latest project to involve Hawk-Eye, a company based in southern England whose ball-tracking tools have become a familiar visual aid to umpires and fans in tennis and cricket over the past decade.

The technology is designed to address an issue faced by many televised sports, where instant replays and social media allow armchair fans to spot errors seconds after they have been made by officials with only their own instant judgment and perhaps an impaired view to rely on.

The work of Hawk-Eye, bought by Japanese electronics giant Sony in 2011, and rivals such as Germany’s GoalControl enables sports to get more of those decisions right, creating a business opportunity and fuelling a debate about whether review technology slows down the game too much.

Paul Hawkins, who developed and gave his name to a system to complement television coverage of cricket in the 1990s and remains a director of the company, wants to end that debate.

“Sport at the top level is about fine margins,” he said.

“You can’t have something that only gets rid of the howler (blatant error) and doesn’t help with the close calls.”

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Hawk-Eye is now helping to resolve goal line disputes in English soccer after the Premier League, the world’s richest, became the first major domestic competition to bring in such technology.

FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, has gone down a similar path after match officials failed to spot a goal by England’s Frank Lampard in his country’s defeat to Germany during the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA used a GoalControl system during the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June, leaving the Germans well placed to win the contract for next year’s World Cup.

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