The Hawkeye system has been installed in every Premier League ground ahead of the new season but will it prove crowd friendly and could it actually enhance the matchday experience?COMMENT
After more than a decade of campaigning for goal line technology there will almost certainly be a real sense of anti-climax when it is finally used in the Premier League on Saturday; because the likelihood is nobody will notice.
So is this an opportunity grasped or an opportunity missed?
The Hawkeye system, which has been installed at every Premier League ground, was used for the first time in the Community Shield at Wembley and will also be in evidence when England face Scotland in an international friendly fixture on Wednesday.
It will, no doubt, over the course of its lifetime, ensure fewer mistakes are made in terms of judging whether the whole of the ball has crossed the whole of the line - a debate that has dominated football discussions ever since Geoff Hurst's 'goal' in the 1966 World Cup Final was wildly disputed by West German defenders.
But if football supporters were expecting the new system - made by the same company and using the same technology that judges line-calls at the Wimbledon tennis championships - to also provide an element of drama it's becoming clear they are going to be disappointed.
In cricket, rugby league, rugby union and now even tennis the introduction of technology - despite initial fears it would slow the action down or break up play too often - has been remarkably crowd friendly.
The drama of waiting to discover if a crucial try or crucial wicket has been awarded - or whether a call appealed by Andy Murray was correct - is these days part of the action; the big screen whirs into action, the heart-beat soundtrack pulses louder and the eventual verdict from the video referee or third umpire is greeted with cheers or boos.
There won't, however, be any of that in football.
The Hawkeye technology does provide the ability to provide a visual image when a goal is scored to 'prove' it was over the line. But in reality it is an indiscreet system that, if it works properly, will go completely unnoticed on the terraces.
All referees now wear a watch that beeps within one second if the ball crosses the line and that, at present, is its only function; so no drama, no thumping heartbeat, no big screen logos.
"It's not like technology systems in cricket," admitted Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
"It's not like DRS, because the R in DRS is important; ours is a goal decision system, there is no R, there is no review. Nobody is going to be taking a look, no other official is going to be taking a look. It is literally the technology; the cameras will tell you and nobody else and therefore there is no room for inaccuracy. It will factually be over or it won't be over and that will be the end of the debate. The system is for the referees to help them make better decisions."
So far, just about everybody has accepted the technology, including referees who in the past were reluctant to agree to any intervention which might seem to lessen their personal authority or decision-making prowess.
Premier League official Anthony Taylor said; "As a group of Premier League referees we welcome the introduction of the goal decision system. Although we had 31 incidents in the Premier League where such a system may have aided our decision making, three of those decisions were called incorrectly so anything that can help us improve our accuracy on major decisions is always welcome."
Most football fans will agree the system is long over-due; although that isn't a view shared by Uefa president Michel Platini who has refused to allow it to be used in the Champions League.
But there is likely to be a far greater split over whether this is the start of the end of technological interference in the game.
The obvious question is if a computer can decide whether a goal was scored then why not if a foul was committed, if a penalty was correctly awarded, if a red card should have been shown?
"I think that is a much wider and more complicated decision which we don't have a view on," insisted Scudamore. "This is a very discrete decision, this technology is only developed for one decision - all the cameras are aimed at one goal line, so it is very much a factually based decision.
"All those other decisions you talk about have a level of subjectivity and a degree of opinion about them and that is a much wider decision which we have certainly not given much thought to."
Discreet, yes. Sensible, yes. But you still sense English football is accepting technology like a reluctant schoolboy eating his vegetables; because goal line cameras, whilst welcome, only solve a tiny fraction of the refereeing mistakes made over a course of the season and don't add anything to the viewing experience.
Progress is finally being made - but don't get too excited and don't think for a minute the debate is over.