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Post Chip-in-ball technology coming to American football?

Tuesday August 10, 2010

If it’s a sport, there’s someone unhappy with the officiating. It seems we’ve had some of the worst calls of all time recently. There was the perfect game that wasn’t. The story of poor officiating took over the World Cup this June much as it did SEC football last October. And if there’s something as universal as gripes about the refs, it’s ideas for what should be done about it.

Our pet idea for football is fixed goal-line cameras. The ball crossing the line is what the game is all about, and we have no consistent way to review that most fundamental of calls. But even that simple idea has its flaw: the view of the goal-line can be obscured from the sideline.

The NFL is looking at an even better idea: chip-in-ball technology. A spokesman for the NFL “said on Tuesday that they are looking at expanding their use of technology.” German company Cairos Technologies claims that they are talking with the NFL about this specific chip-in-ball technology.

The German manufacturer of the technology does get one thing very wrong about the rules of American football. He states that “in American Football you have the same situation (as in soccer), you need to cross a line and the ball needs to be over the line 100 percent.” The two sports are completely opposite in their treatment of the ball crossing the line. It’s true that in soccer/futbol the ball isn’t considered out of bounds or in the goal until it completely crosses the boundary line. American football only requires the slightest bit of the ball to “break the plane” to register as a score (or first down, etc.). If you’ve ever seen a first down measurement, you know that. Whether that different set of rules is enough to matter in the technology is of course going to come up as the NFL investigates, but it does make a difference in how sensors are to be positioned and triggered.

If the system works, hopefully it’s not too long until the technology trickles down to major college football.

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