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Soccer Goes Digital With Intelligent Ball

Following controversy of a goal scored but not granted at the most recent European Championship between England and the Ukraine, FIFA has agreed to allow Hawk Eye and GoalRef technologies to help avoid future referee errors.

Hawk Eye is similar to the camera technology used in tennis and relies on up to six cameras that are monitoring the goal. In the event of a goal, all images are combined and analyzed to determine whether the soccer ball entirely crossed the goal line or not. A more advanced technology is GoalRef, which combines a microchip embedded in a soccer ball as well as a magnetic field that is created above the goal line. The chip can send data wirelessly to a monitoring system or to a device worn by the referee and provide instant information of a scored goal.

The soccer ball with integrated chip for the GoalRef system has been developed by Danish firm Select and is called "iBall". Select said that it had a head start with the system since it has been "developing" the soccer ball for "more than 65 years".

"With a certain sense of pride, we can now say that Select has been behind the four most important steps in the development of the modern soccer ball," said Select CEPO Peter Knap. "It began with the first laceless leather ball, then the first ball with 32 panels, then the first synthetic leather ball, and now the world's first intelligent ball. At Select we have a deep insight into the very nature of the sport that enables us to create the best professional sporting equipment." The magnetic field component is provided by Fraunhofer IIS.

FIFA already said that both systems can be used in future soccer games, but there is no indication that any clubs globally would deploy the technology this year. For example, major clubs playing in Germany's first division said that they may consider the technology for the 2013 season and argue that camera systems should also be used to avoid frequent referee errors affecting, for example, the offside rule.