THE Scottish Football Association plans to invest in training officials rather than expensive goal-line technology in a bid to minimise the type of error that denied Hibs a second derby victory over Hearts this season.
Referee Euan Norris and assistant Raymond Whyte both failed to spot that a Leigh Griffiths free-kick had bounced a yard over the line when it crashed down off the crossbar in Sunday’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League encounter at Easter Road, which eventually ended 0-0.
Just eight days earlier across Edinburgh, the International FA Board had approved the use of goal-line technology on television and big screens, something which Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon called for the swift implementation of after his side were denied their goal.
Fifa has had tenders from four companies to install systems for the Confederations Cup and World Cup in Brazil, while the FA and Premier League are in talks over putting the technology into English top-flight clubs and Wembley.
However, with the systems set to cost at least £100,000 for each stadium and Fifa still opposed to using television evidence, Scottish football is unlikely to follow suit.
The SFA’s head of referee operations, John Fleming, told the governing body’s website: “Firstly, as an association we are in favour of goal-line technology, and indeed have been heavily involved during the test process as a member of the IFAB.
“However, as the general secretary of Fifa himself, Jerome Valcke, outlined in Edinburgh last week, the installation of each system will cost a six-figure sum on top of any maintenance costs.
“That would make it prohibitive, I would suggest, for the respective league bodies in Scotland, the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League, to consider rolling out any time soon.
“In the meantime, we will continue to reinforce the training that we give to referees.
“In La Manga, we actually give referees simulations and they have a split second to decide whether the ball is on the line or over the line. It is an essential part of their training but they are only human.”
Former referees have pointed out that both officials were positioned as instructed at Easter Road. Norris was facing the wall as Griffiths lined up his 40-yard strike while Whyte started off watching for offside on the 18-yard line.
Fleming said: “In free-kick situations such as the one at the weekend there are three situations that a referee and his assistants must look out for: offside, management of defensive wall with regards to holding, handling and jostling, and the ball over the line. In probability terms, the first two occur more often than a contentious ball-over-the-line decision. It is crucially important to get those calls right, of course, when the ball may or may not have crossed the line but there are far more instances of the other two.
“Of course goal-line technology would help, and we have four companies – Goal Ref, Hawkeye, Goal Control and Cairos – who have obtained a licence but would Scottish clubs rather invest in this technology at a premium to the detriment of youth investment? I don’t think so in the current climate.”
Fleming sympathised with Hibs but pointed out the difficulty in getting such decisions right.
“There was another incident involving Hibernian earlier this season where a header from the Motherwell defender, Steven Hammell, crossed the line [despite goalkeeper Ben Williams clawing it clear] but the assistant did not have a good enough view to make that call,” he added. “On that occasion, the assistant referee was actually very close to the goal line but his view was obscured by a defending and attacking player.
“The main coaching for match officials is you must be 100 per cent sure of the decision you are going to give. If a referee or assistant referee is less than 100 per cent sure, then he should not make that decision.”