Thursday , April 19, 2012 - 5:31 PM
NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer would implement goal-line technology quickly if it's approved in July by the sport's rules-making body.
"We're interested in being a test league and we hope that we could achieve that," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Thursday while speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors. "I would be open to whatever it is that could be done to ensure that we have goal-line technology."
The International Football Association Board meets July 2 and could approve Sony Corp.'s Hawk-Eye or GoalRef, owned by a German-Danish company. Following a series of erroneous calls in high-profile games ranging from the 2010 World Cup to this year's FA Cup, there could be more support for goal-line technology among tradition-bound soccer officials.
Hawk-Eye is a camera-based ball-tracking system used in tennis and cricket. GoalRef employs a magnetic field with a special ball. Both could be approved.
Each system sends a signal within a second of the ball crossing the line to the referee, who makes the final decision.
If approval is granted in July, Garber said, MLS could implement the technology at some point during this season, which began in March. The Premier League hopes to use it for its 2012-13 season, which starts in August.
"There's a lot more that we need to learn about it, understanding the process," Garber said. "The bottom line here is that I would be open to using goal-line technology as soon as it is made available."
He said the league's policy of using video review to punish players for simulation was working.
"Americans generally ... view that aspect of the game as not fitting with our culture or our view of fairness," he said. "We have almost eliminated that unpleasant or unsavory aspect of the game from our sport."
Garber also said MLS was interested in Spanish forward Raul Gonzalez, who said Thursday he would leave European soccer when his two-year contract with Schalke expires at the end of the season. Raul, who turns 35 in June, has not said whether he prefers MLS to clubs in Asia.
Garber said the league remained focused on placing its 20th team in the New York area, with talks for a stadium taking precedent over the ownership group. He said there are several groups interested and there would be a "near auction" for ownership rights.
Beyond that, other markets that interest the league in expansion beyond 20 teams include Miami, Orlando, the Southwest and Atlanta. The league also is working with Chivas USA, which would like to leave the Home Depot Center and relocate within the Los Angeles area.
"We're got to work hard to figure out a repositioning and a re-energized approach," he said.
With the addition of Montreal this year, average attendance in the league is 19,493 through 53 games, up 12 percent from 17,370 at this point last year.
"It's about trying to improve the quality of play," Garber said. "The NFL doesn't have to think about that. The NBA doesn't have to think about that. We're competing against global soccer here. We've got to raise the quality of play within a very focused and strategic economic system yet be able to offer fans something that they will think is of similar quality as the Premier League or Serie A or La Liga. We don't think we're going to be better than the Premier League."
Garber praised the Seattle Sounders for marketing beyond their youth soccer community.
"It's about young, urban, hip, 20-somethings who care about the game and really want something to cheer and celebrate for because they're connected to it through EA, connected to it through watching Fox and the Premier League, and now we're going to give them the chance to do it in their hometown," he said.
Television ratings are down 18 percent on ESPN and ESPN2 through three telecasts but the new package on NBC Sports Network has averaged 118,000 viewers for six telecasts, up 84 percent from last year on Fox Soccer Channel, which has a smaller distribution.
"We've got to grow our televisions ratings in order to achieve our goals," he said. "We could turn that switch on if we wanted to invest in more David Beckhams, because we've seen ratings growth with (Thierry) Henry and Beckham when those two players are on national television."
He said uniform sponsorship deals had generated nearly $100 million for MLS and its teams and that the Los Angeles Galaxy's agreement with Herbalife alone was worth $40 million over its term. In addition, Garber said a media private equity fund has invested in Soccer United Marketing. The league has no plans anytime soon to switch to an international calendar or start relegation.
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