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'TV refs to save football officials' says Professor Harry Collins

15 January 2015

Professor Harry Collins
Professor Collins holds a shirt presented to him by Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Professor Harry Collins, known for doubting the accuracy of Hawkeye, has questioned the use of goal-line technology following a conference in Lisbon. 

At The Future of Football conference at Sporting Clube de Portugal Professor Collins shared a panel with experts on technology and refereeing, arguing that attention should be shifted to the use of television replays. 

Speaking alongside Keith Hackett, referee assessor, member of UEFA Referee Experts Panel and author of the You Are the Ref column, representatives of the Bundesliga, and the Director of GoalControl - the German firm that produces the goal line technology used in the World Cup - Professor Collins argued that the obsession with accuracy is misplaced. 

He explains "The problem for football is that the authority of referees has been destroyed by television replays shown from different angles. Television viewers now have a better view than referees of penalties, offsides and fouls - as well as rare goal-line confusions - and, week after week, they see their teams suffer injustice.  The beautiful game has been made ugly because we can see what the referee can't".

While Professor Collins agreed that technologically complex innovations such as goal-line technology can solve some of the problems, he likens it to "taking a sledge-hammer to crack a peanut while the huge coconut of all other refereeing mistakes is ignored". 

Professor Collins believes that goal line errors make up a tiny proportion of referee errors and the only reason viewers know about them is because TV has revealed some famous incidents. He argues that those same TV replays could solve the existing problems without the need for complex and expensive technology which can take years to introduce.

He continues: "To use goal-line technology to decide whether a goal has been scored needs multiple cameras running at very fast frame rate such as 500 frames per second.  Even then they can never be exactly accurate. The problem for referees has been created by cameras running at broadcast frame rate, which can be as low as 24 frames per second. These seem good enough to solve the problem too and are ready to use, so why not use them? Not just for goal line decisions but also for penalties, offsides, red cards, and so on".

While he concedes that broadcast cameras cannot say exactly where the ball is, Professor Collins believes using them can solve the current refereeing problems of football and take away the agony of fans seeing their team cheated by inadvertent refereeing errors. It will also benefit managers and owners who sometimes see their clubs lose millions because of false results in leagues or knock-out competitions.

To conclude, Professor Collins states that although football authorities seem to believe that introducing replays would slow the game down, adapting existing technologies to fit the purpose can allow video referees to work without introducing extra game delays.

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