Cologne - Hellmut Krug knows plenty about officiating. Indeed, having been a Bundesliga referee for 17 years, spending ten of those as a FIFA-listed official, the 59-year-old referee's advisor is perfectly placed to discuss the unique pressures of being the man in the middle.
With major changes afoot for the officiating of the 2015/16 season, including the introduction of goal-line technology via the 'Hawk-Eye' system, bundesliga.com overheard Mr Krug's views on what effects such modifications will have on the upcoming campaign...
bundesliga.com: Mr Krug, goal-line technology will be introduced into the Bundesliga for the 2015/16 season. What do you see as the major advantages of this innovation?
Hellmut Krug: From the referee’s point of view, the major advantage is that the officials receive support in answering the crucial question of whether the ball was in or not.
bundesliga.com: The Bundesliga has decided in favour of the 'Hawk-Eye' system. How does this work?
Krug: In the 'Hawk-Eye' system, each goal is watched by seven cameras. From these pictures, a computer decides if the ball has completely crossed the line or not.
bundesliga.com: What change do you expect for the work of the referee and his assistants because of the technology?
Krug: For the DFB Cup final in Berlin, we trained the referees comprehensively in how to work with this system. However, it’s important to add that the basic work of the referee will not be substantially altered as a result of goal-line technology.
bundesliga.com: In what sense?
Krug: The referee will obviously still have to try and determine whether a goal was scored or not. Even if it’s highly improbable, a situation could arise where the technology suddenly fails. If that happens, a decision still has to be made, and therefore the referee still has the final say. Obviously, in most cases, the technology will take this important decision away from them - with the system giving the referee and his team a signal.
bundesliga.com: You mentioned the signal there. How will the referee be informed as to whether a goal has been scored?
Krug: All the officials receive a watch, which immediately informs the referee both by a digital display and via a vibration. The referees are also still connected by a system of headsets, and a signal will be heard there when the ball crosses the goal-line. The bottom line is that all members of the refereeing unit will receive both aural and tactile alerts as to what has happened.
bundesliga.com: Public outcry after referees get decisions wrong is usually enormous. Will technology help to take the referee out of the media’s line of fire?
Krug: Obviously, when talking about goal line decisions that's definitely the case. In the past there have inevitably been wrong decisions, because what was expected of the referee and his assistants was something which the human eye cannot actually see. That’s mainly to do with the speed of the ball: At up to 12 kilometres per hour, the human eye can still see clearly as soon as the ball has crossed the line. In most cases, however, things hardly ever happen that slowly. Most shots actually travel at around 100 kilometres per hour. Obviously, therefore, it is almost impossible to expect that the referee does his job without any mistakes.
bundesliga.com: Did you experience any situations in your career where, in hindsight, you would have been happy to use technology?
Krug: Yes, absolutely. I can remember two off the top of my head. There was one game, VfB Stuttgart against Hamburger SV [Matchday 19 of the 2001/02 season] where I didn’t give the goal, although in hindsight it turned out that the ball had indeed crossed the line. There was another occurrence which caused even more of a furore. It was TSV 1860 Munich against 1. FC Kaiserslautern [Matchday 17 of the 1999/00 season] and during the game head coach Otto Rehhagel [then Kaiserslautern coach] ran to the camera to check for himself whether the ball had gone in or not. It had in fact gone in, but you couldn’t recognise that from my position, because my sight, as well as that of my assistants, was blocked by players. Those were two wrong decisions which I would certainly have liked to have saved myself from. At that time, I would obviously have been happy if I could have called upon technological assistance.
bundesliga.com: There are voices nowadays, though, who say that wrong decisions belong to football and help to provoke debate. How would you respond to that?
Krug: It’s usually romantics who say things like that. The referees are the tragic heroes because the buck stops with them when it comes to mistaken decisions. The introduction of goal-line technology won't be able to stop the wrong decisions being made completely. What we can stop, though, is mistakes made in regard to whether the ball has crossed the line or not.
bundesliga.com: At the same time, does the introduction of goal-line technology also pave the way for more technological changes to refereeing?
Krug: You have to consider them as separate issues, because in relation to goals being scored the goal line technology provide an objectively verifiable decision. Every other situation [requiring the referee’s judgement] there are still clear complexities. If we were to talk about tackling, for example, it should be noted that in these decisions, referees are usually afforded some leeway. There are plenty of cases when it’s not very easy just to say ‘that’s a foul’, or ‘that’s not a foul’. Sometimes it’s about the line of sight, sometimes the more decisive factor is the position of the referee.
bundesliga.com: What is in favour, then, of the introduction of new technological assistance, such as for example, the aforementioned video evidence?
Krug: Prominent mistakes obviously feed the discussion of whether further technological assistance should be provided. If we hadn’t seen what had happened at the DFB Cup final in Berlin [in 2014], Ukraine against England [at UEFA EURO 2012], or even Germany against England [at the 2010 FIFA World Cup], then perhaps we wouldn’t even be talking about the introduction of goal-line technology. From our position, it is vital that there is a clear differentiation between provable facts, such as if something is a goal or not a goal, and whether a circumstantial decision is correct.
bundesliga.com: Why is it hard? And how could video evidence support the referee?
Krug: When it comes to mistaken decisions, the calls for video evidence quickly become very loud. But the question is this: How do you determine when a referee has made a wrong decision? Who scan clearly define that? If you try to tackle the problem of video evidence, video referees etc, there remain several unanswered questions. Furthermore, FIFA have themselves not yet permitted the use of video evidence.
Hellmut Krug was speaking to Yannik Schmidt