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.
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.