GOAL-LINE technology moved a step closer to being introduced in football after a day of tests at St Mary’s – and could even be in place by the time Saints kick-off the new Premier League season.
Hampshire-based company Hawk-Eye had their cutting-edge system put through its paces by independent inspectors at the home of Southampton yesterday.
The firm is vying with German- Danish venture GoalRef for the rights to be approved as authorised suppliers.
A final decision on the introduction of goal-line technology will be made by the International Football Association Board in July.
If the game’s law-making body give it the green light, it would be available for use as early as next season, which could have implications at both ends of the pitch for the likes of Saints duo Rickie Lambert and Kelvin Davis.
HawkEye managing director Steve Carter is hopeful of winning the license and could not rule out the possibility of the technology being used in the Premier League in 2012/13.
“It is impossible for me to say right now,” he said, when asked if it was feasible in that timescale.
“You would have to survey the grounds and there would be a lot of logistical things that we would need to go through and at the moment I don’t have that information.”
But he did admit that Hawk-Eye, whose systems are already used in tennis and cricket, are well versed at installing their cameras in sporting venues.
“It varies from ground to ground on how long it takes,” he said.
“At the moment all of our concentration and energy is on doing as well as we can (and) making the technology as good as possible.
“The roll out of that technology is something we have a lot of experience in through our work with cricket and tennis, but it is not something we are focusing on at the moment.”
Yesterday marked the beginning of the second phase of testing for Hawk- Eye, which will continue today.
The system will be tested in “live” conditions during next Wednesday’s Hampshire Senior Cup final between Eastleigh and Totton at St Mary’s – although the officials will have no access to the technology or its results, meaning it will have no impact on the game.
Hawk-Eye uses seven high-speed cameras at each end of the ground to calculate a three-dimensional position of the ball, while GoalRef uses a chip in the ball which is monitored by magnetic fields.
Inspectors from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) have been appointed by world governing body FIFA to oversee the testing of the two systems.
Carter admitted the prospect of Hawk-Eye being implemented in football is a tantalising one.
“It is tremendously exciting and it will be the highest profile and biggest sport that we do if we’re successful,” he said.
“FIFA have appointed an independent scientific research institution called EMPA and they basically set a series of tests that we need to perform against.
“Subject to Hawk-Eye passing those tests, hopefully we will be approved for use as an official goalline technology adjudicator.
“All of the results are confidential. We don’t get to find out, but every indication is that everything is running very smoothly.”
The IFAB – which consists of the English, Scottish and Welsh Football Associations, along with FIFA – is due to make a final decision on goal-line technology at a special meeting on July 2.
Crucially, the approval of FIFA is required in order for it to be given the go-ahead.