By Rob Harris / AP
BAGSHOT, England: The International Football Association Board annual meeting took a step toward clearing the way for female Muslim players to wear hijabs during games, five years after banning the headscarves because of safety reasons.
FIFA Vice President Prince Ali on Jordan gave a presentation to show how headscarves can be held in place by safe Velcro fasteners.
“I am deeply grateful that the proposal to allow women to wear a headscarf in football was unanimously endorsed by all members of IFAB,” he said. “I welcome the decision for an accelerated process to further test the current new and safe design presented.
“I am confident that once the final ratification in the July Special Meeting of IFAB takes place, we will see many delighted and happy players returning to the football field and playing the game that they love.”
Moreover, goal-line technology could be introduced in football by the end of the year after two systems were also approved during the meeting for a final round of testing ahead of a landmark vote in July.
While six systems were cut after failing extensive experiments, football’s rule-making body was satisfied that Hawk-Eye and GoalRef provided fast and accurate decisions on disputed goals.
English Football Association general secretary Alex Horne said the two remaining high-tech aids will now be “tested to destruction,” before they can be approved for use in matches at a meeting of the International Football Association Board on July 2.
While that is considered too late for any system to be used in the major European leagues in the 2012-13 season, FIFA hopes to have goal-line technology at the Club World Cup in December in Japan and certainly by the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“We are very comfortable the technology is proving itself,” said Horne, whose federation hosted the IFAB meeting. “It’s an important step forward for us but it is important that we do test it for failure. … The principle is approved, the question now is, is there a system working or not.”
Sony Corp.’s Hawk-Eye is a camera-based ball-tracking system successfully deployed in tennis and cricket. GoalRef, owned by a German-Danish company, uses a magnetic field with a special ball.
Both systems send a signal within a second of the ball crossing the line to the referee, who will retain the power to make the final call.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter ended his long-standing opposition to the high-tech aids after England midfielder Frank Lampard’s “ghost goal” against Germany at the 2010 World Cup, when his shot bounced down off the crossbar beyond the goal line but was not counted.
Even if goal-line technology is approved, competitions could still opt to use the five-official system championed by UEFA President Michel Platini. After being tested in continental club matches, additional referees’ assistants will be deployed at the European Championship in June.
IFAB, which is made up of the four British associations and four FIFA delegates, also approved an English proposal to have a two-year experiment on rolling substitutes in amateur football. FIFA withdrew a proposal to allow a fourth substitute during extra time.