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Marketplace

Referees get a tech upgrade at the World Cup

Tracey Samuelson Jun 23, 2014
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Soccer fans will be focused on the players during the World Cup, but tech fans should keep an eye on the referees — Their equipment is getting an upgrade this year.

The first thing you may notice is a new, spray-foam-like shaving cream that refs will use to mark the position of free kicks. It vanishes a few seconds later.

“It’s kind of fun,” says Victor Matheson, a sports economist at The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. He’s also a former ref for Major League Soccer and has used the spray before.

“But the big great innovation that really opens the door here is goal line technology,” says Matheson.

When the ball goes near the goal, you might also notice refs checking their watch – but not for the time. Seven high-speed cameras will now monitor each net and send an alert to the ref’s watch within a second of the ball crossing the goal line.

Sam Laird, who covers sports and technology for Mashable, says the hope is to avoid situations like the 2010 World Cup, where England lost a match to Germany thanks, in part, to a questionable call.

“It was a close play and the ref made the wrong call,” says Laird. “[It’s] a human error, but one that could have been corrected with the help of replay and for the first time that will be an option this year.”

But even with all the tech support refs will get at the World Cup this year, they are still human – which means there will likely be plenty of other reasons for fans to scream at them.

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