Computer says no…

An insight by Andrew Howie

Since the birth of sport, players have been complaining about the referees. It seems there is rarely a match where teams are happy with the decisions. In some cases, both teams are fiercely unhappy.

As technology has improved, most sports have adopted it in some form or other. Cricket first brought in a 3rd umpire to adjudicate on run outs. They were able to slow down the broadcast footage to frame-by-frame so as to see if batsmen were out. That has since progressed to Hawkeye, which can predict the path of the ball. This Hawkeye technology has expanded to now feature in a few of the major tennis tournaments, allowing players to challenge a limited number of calls in a set. If you get it right, you keep the challenge.

The idea of a video referee is now commonplace in many sports around the world. The on field adjudicator can call for assistance to see if people were on/offside at the time of the play. They can even check the grounding of the ball.

The topic of technology has once again been thrust in to the spotlight and on a grand stage. The FIFA World Cup has been plagued with complaints of cheating and terrible adjudicating.

There have been several controversial red cards, a myriad of dives and a string of incorrect rulings. Some argue that this is part of the beauty of the game. Others feel that there is a growing need for technology to play a role. Soccer, or football as it wishes to be known, is one of the highest profile sports not to have technology overseeing some part in the game.

It seems that technology, or the lack of it, carries the can for players who fail to convert on opportunities. It offers a scapegoat for players who fail to convert opportunities over the full period of the game. England has only focused on one goal that was disallowed in their world cup match against Germany. But they fail to mention that had one of the 15 odd other shots at goal been on target, this would not be an issue. Had they made the most of other chances presented, this would not matter.

Once technology is introduced, the blame shifts further down the line. Players and coaches then complain that the decision made by the video referee was wrong. It seems that the technology does nothing to appease those who wish to cast blame elsewhere.

For hundreds of years people have played sport without the aid of technology. They took it on the chin and moved on with the next play.

Have we become so obsessed with winning that we will literally go to any extent possible to see it happen?