I have previously discussed whether soccer should have a video referee and after being at an AFL game last night I believe there is a good argument for using video or other technology to adjudicate close goal-line decisions in AFL too.
Not far from me I saw two incidents where it was a close call whether the ball actually crossed the goal line, and from my position, the umpire did not seem to get it right. I have not had the opportunity to see a reply which was surely shown to the home viewers of the match.
If the TV viewers can get to see a slow-motion reply of such situations immediately after the fact, why can’t they refer close calls to an off-field umpire who can watch the same video and then refer their decision back to the field umpires? Rugby union has had such a system for a while now, and international cricket and tennis matches are also using a referral system. It is time for the AFL to join the other major sports.
There are already nine umpires on the field in AFL matches: three field umpires, four boundary umpires, and two goal umpires. There is an emergency umpire, who is the tenth. He is currently there as a possible replacement if needed, and is also responsible for monitoring behind-the-play incidents. It would not be too much to ask this umpire to also be responsible for reviewing the video replays when they arise. I have a personal reason for these views – last night my team the Blues lost by 3 points and are out of the finals, if only a video referee system was in place the result may have been different.
Athletics fans were not able to watch their star Usain Bolt in the final of the World Athletics Championships 100m sprint. The Olympic gold medalist and world record holder was disqualified after false starting. In new rules which came into play in January 1 2010, a false start means automatic disqualification. Previous to that, after one false start a warning was given to all runners, then the next person to break was out. And before that, the long standing rule was that each runner was allowed to break early once. The false start rules needed to be changed as the athletes began to purposely break to put off other runners, and watching a 100m sprint final became a joke with ongoing restarts.
There are calls for the rules to be changed – but to what? Return to what did not work before? I have been to many track meets and had to sit around watching the sprinters (I was one myself) ply their gamesmanship. Bolt actually backed the rule introduction last year, so he can’t complain. Athletics meets will be better to watch under the current rules, and maybe we just have to put up with occasionally missing seeing a champion race. Rules don’t suddenly need revision just because a high-profile athlete has fallen foul. The rule makers need to be consistent, and the athletes need to play by the rules and accept them.
Walking in cricket means that you walk off the field when you know you are out, whether the umpire gives you out or not. Adam Gilchrist is a recent modern day player that was well known for walking. It was easy for him as he more often than not played well and made a good score. It must be harder for other players who are struggling to keep their place in the team, who do not want to give away their wicket unless the umpire says so. The umpires make wrong decisions sometimes, giving players out when they are not, and not giving them out when they are. Over time you would expect that this would even out, and this is one argument of some players who chose not to walk. The players need an incentive to do the right thing and walk when they think they are out. How about an annual prize for the best ‘walker’, based on point every time a player walks before being given out by the umpire, and extra credits when they walk and are subsequently found to be not out by the replays!
Cricket has joined some other sports to now have at Test level an umpire referral system. It was first trialed in 2008 (in a Test series between Sri Lanka and India). Unlike in tennis where the challenge and referral decision is clear cut using hawke-eye technology, the cricket referral is adjudicated by another umpire and is open to further errors. The actual way it works may change and develop, but when it was first brought in this is how it worked.
Players are allowed to challenge decisions made by the on-field umpires and have them referred to the TV official. For each innings of the Test, each team can challenge any decisions, though they will be limited to three unsuccessful challenges per innings. Only the batsman on the receiving end of the umpire’s original decision or the captain of the fielding side can appeal by making a “T” sign with both forearms at shoulder height. The third umpire uses the technology of the hot spot and slow motion replays at different angles to gain information and make decisions.
It all sounds great for the players and viewers at home, but the pressure is on the umpires. In reality, the process takes too long and can distract from the game. When there are challenges left near the end of an innings, players tend to make frivolous challenges on the off chance of getting a decision overturned. So there are still problems that need to be ironed out, but a great step forward for cricket.
One sport that has so far resisted the use of high-tech assistance is soccer (football). It is about time they got with the 20th century. They can’t avoid the power of the people and the power of the TV replays to upgrade their sports.
There are multiple ways that technology could help the refs. How about replays being used to adjudicate off-side decisions, whether a ball passes over the goal line, and to clarify penalty decisions? An off-field referee could communicate with the umpires on the field using wireless technology.
I see it time and time again. Players jump up and down complaining about an umpiring decision, trying to convince the umpire or referee to change their mind. In years of watching many different sports at many levels, I see the same behaviour and maybe once or twice have I ever seen what appears to be an umpire who has reversed a decision, which may or may not have been influenced by the player. Players will always think that they are hard done by. I really admire a sportsperson who will get up and continue with the game despite an obvious penalty being missed by the umpire. The umpires will not always get it right, but I think they are always trying their best, as do the players.
An interesting thing happened in a Test Match between England and Pakistan the other day. It was unfortunate for controversial Australian umpire Darrell Hair that he happened to be officiating on this day, however it seems like he just followed the rules as they are laid out. Originally, Pakistan were penalized five runs after the umpires noticed that the ball had been tampered with. Whether they did it or not, the Pakis should have just got on with the game. Instead, after the tea break they decided to have a ‘sit in’ and did not retake the field. After giving them adequate time to make it to the pitch, the umpires decided that Pakistan had forfeited the match with victory being awarded to England. As with all sports, the umpires are the sole adjudicators of the rules out on the pitch, and the umpires decisions should be final. It really doesn’t matter that people have paid to see a game – they have paid to watch a fair game of sport, and if the umpires declare that the game is not fair, and a team does not follow the rules and laws of the game, then they (and the supporters) will have to suffer the consequences. I don’t like how so much of the blame went to the umpire Darrell Hair (but not his co-umpire?). The blame should go to the Pakistan Cricket team for spitting the dummy and not playing ball.
On the weekend, an AFL player playing down in the VFL, accidentally ran into the field umpire and knocked him over. It looked pretty funny on TV, but in recent years there have been a few of these incidents and the players have been penalized for it.
Last night this player was given a week’s break by the tribunal, which he probably thinks is a little unfair. However, it is important to protect the umpire or referee in any sport. To do their job properly, they have to be close to the play without getting involved in it. The players and umpires alike need to do whatever it takes to keep that barrier.
Another AFL umpiring incident this week had the field umpire apparently swearing at a player. Even though the umpire denies it, if swearing at the player was required to get his point across then I have no problems with it. If an umpire does a good job, no one notices.
So I guess that means in both of these incidents some of the blame must go to the umpire.
In the news from last weekend’s AFL round is the decision by Essendon to wear yellow armbands as a sign of support for a teammate with cancer. Traditionally an armband is worn by a team when someone close to the club has died. Essendon sought approval from the AFL to do it, was told that they could not, but decided to go ahead anyway. Of course, the AFL have to uphold their ruling, so Essendon was fined, and they complain about it!
Why are they surprised and angered that they are fined? For a team involved in sport, they should know that when the umpire has made a ruling, even if you don’t agree with it, you take it on the chin and get on with the game.
Although the sentiment by Essendon is great, I can see where the AFL is coming from – these things can get out of hand. There is a story that one player wore a black armband when his dog died. That’s just going too far.
Speaking of AFL, what’s the deal with the split round – six games played last week, and only two this week – wouldn’t four each week make more sense? Maybe there is something I am missing.
I think the right decision has been made for the disputed AFL game between St Kilda and Fremantle last weekend. Freo was eventually awarded the points, even though the rules have always been that the game is over only when the umpire hears the siren and signals the end of the game. If it takes a few seconds for the sound of the siren to register with the umpire before he blows time, and during this time a team scores, then that score has always counted.
There have been many instances of this in the past, usually as a ball is kicked in the dying seconds of a game. In this case, the siren blower was in error and did not continue to blow the siren until the umpire signals the end of the game. The game went on, and Fremantle scored a behind to put them in front.
Everyone who knows the full story should acknowledge that Fremantle deserved to win and rightly the powers that be agreed. Too many times we look to the rules and regulations to decide on right and wrong – maybe we should be doing what we think is right, even if the rules don’t always agree with what we think.
My opinion has nothing to do with the fact that I was once a Fremantle supporter!