The makers of the goalline technology used in the Premier League have issued an apology after the resumption of the season descended into farce when a goal was disallowed because cameras failed to spot the ball crossing the line.
Sheffield United appeared to have opened the scoring just before half-time in the top flight's first match back after its three-month suspension, as the Aston Villa goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland clearly carried the ball over the line as he tried to cut out a free-kick from the United midfielder Ollie Norwood.
But to widespread amazement, and the consternation of United, the referee, Michael Oliver, waved play on because he received no goal alert from either his watch or earpiece, which are supposed to inform him if the ball has crossed the line.
Hawk-Eye subsequently said their cameras did not get a clear view because of the presence of players and a post. A statement from the company posted on Twitter said: “The seven cameras located in the stands around the goal area were significantly occluded by the goalkeeper, defender and goalpost. This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation.
“The system was tested and proved functional prior to the start of the match in accordance with the IFAB Laws of the Game and confirmed as working by the match officials. The system has remained functional throughout.
Hawk-Eye apologises unreservedly to the Premier League, Sheffield United and everyone affected by this incident.”
A victory would have taken United up to fifth in the table and right into the battle to reach the Champions League. Their manager, Chris Wilder, said: "I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The feeling of everybody at the time – both sets of players and staff – was the ball had crossed the line. And speaking to the referee, he said to me it had the feel of a goal. But obviously he's got to rely on Hawk-Eye to make the decision.
“For someone to tell me that with seven cameras this is the first time it has happened in 9,000 games is pretty hard to take. I’d expect that decision to be given down the park on a muddy foggy Sunday afternoon. The goalkeeper was in the Holte End.”