Goal line technology in soccer: are referees ready for technology in decision making

23 September 2014

The announcement that goal line technology will be used in the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Brazil has sparked renewed interest and debate regarding its accuracy and reliability, its influence on the fluidity and rhythm of the game, its influence on the nature of the game, its practical implementation and the psychological effects it would have on referees. When controversial decisions are made, the referee comes under extensive scrutiny by players, fans and spectators as well as commentators who have the tendency of scapegoating the referee. The purpose of the study was to examine the perceptions of soccer referees regarding the use of goal line technology in soccer. A qualitative research approach which involved conducting in depth interviews was adopted for the study. A database of qualified referees which was created by a senior referee was used to recruit a purposive sample of referees within easy access to the researchers. Referees were selected based on the following criteria: a) having a qualification to referee soccer matches, b) having at least 4 years refereeing experience, and c) being aware of goal line technology. An analysis of the transcripts revealed consistency in the responses of the respondents regarding most of the questions. The following three themes are a synthesis of the findings of the study based on their significance in terms of how frequently they were mentioned and articulated by the respondents: knowledge of technology, technology vs human factor, fairness and justice. The results of the study suggest that while referees are aware of goal line technology, they do not possess in depth knowledge of the phenomenon. It is therefore important for them to take proactive measures to update their knowledge so that they are prepared when the technology is introduced in South Africa.