• Technology in Sport – Hits and Misses

    Posted on 17-08-22 by Admin


    With the introduction of VAR and goal line technology in football, Hawkeye in cricket and tennis and TMO in rugby, Brendan Wilson-McGarry, Delivery Consultant in our Technology division, takes a look at the different uses of technology in sport.


    Goal Line Technology – Football

    Goal line technology was first introduced into professional football in 2011. The technology is simple and detects when the whole ball crosses the whole goal line. To date here are 2 common types in football: Camera Tracking and Magnetic Field Sensors. The high-speed cameras track the ball from different angles triangulating the balls position and determining whether a goal has been scored. With the magnetic field sensor method, a tracking sensor is placed inside the ball allowing its position to be tracked via a computer. Both systems provide and automatic response to the referee in which they are notified through their watch indicating a goal.

    This is fast, reliable, and ultimately rarely criticised. Thankfully goals like this below now will be given.

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    Hawkeye – Cricket and Tennis

    In cricket and tennis, a system called Hawkeye is used (this system is also used in other sports which I have not included in this post as I wanted to focus on its use in Cricket and Tennis). Similarly, to goal line technology six high-speed cameras surround the field of play which track the balls positioning. The footage from these cameras is then triangulated allowing ball tracking to continue even after the ball has changed direction – which is particularly beneficial in cricket for LBW (leg before wicket). As the data is fed to a computer it can calculate the path of the ball as if the batter’s leg did not impede its path. This is used to determine whether the ball was destined to hit the stumps, resulting in the batter’s dismissal if his leg was not in the way. Often this technology’s use is restricted to be used only in review cases – when one team feels the umpire has made an incorrect call, they can challenge this. Each team is limited with the number of reviews they can make per game (often losing their review if their call was deemed incorrect).

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    In tennis, the same system is used – with the main difference being what is tracked. The high-speed cameras tracking whether the ball bounced inside/outside the lines of play. Once again, this system is not used for every close call and the decision is first made by umpires. It is then the responsibility of the players to review the decision if they think a mistake has been made. Hawkeye in this application is used to determine whether the ball bounced, inside, outside or on the line rather than having to calculate where the ball would have gone had it not been interfered with.

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    Ultimately both decisions are first made by the umpires and only reviewed when the player sees so fit. Hawkeye is tested to be accurate to within 3.6 millimetres and has been trusted by multiple governing bodies (Cricket, Tennis, Rugby, Gaelic Football, Badminton, Hurling and Volleyball). Again, the decisions are made quickly, and the system is trusted to determine the outcome.


    Television Match Official (TMO) – Rugby

    The TMO in Rugby again is multiple cameras place around different areas of the pitch allowing full coverage to get the best angles for making decisions. The TMO is often only used in 2 circumstances. Firstly, to determine whether the ball has been properly grounded for a try/ any infringement within two phases prior to the try. Secondly, possible foul play. TMO is used in this scenario to confirm whether the referee was correct. The referee will indicate how he has seen the scenario play out and their decision using the TMO to confirm he was right or reverse the decision if it was “clear and obvious”.

    Although some decisions can take a long time to finalise it has become widely accepted in Rugby. This may be since the TMO is not necessarily used to review every possible scoring opportunity however, it may be due to the nature of the game in rugby and that foul play can be a lot more harmful than in football.

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    Warning – If you often are filled with rage with the talk of VAR being used in football then I would not read on any further as we have reached that stage.

    The dreaded acronym of VAR (Video Assisted Referee) – Football

    The Premier League introduced VAR on 1 June 2020 and since then it feels like every decision has gone LiVARpool’s way. VAR is a system in which an official league referee is based in Stockley Park looking at video replays and making decisions on a few things. The replays coming from several cameras once again placed around the ground.

    One thing which is often checked is whether a player was in an offside position before they scored their goal. This is done by freezing the replay on the moment the ball was played into the potential offside player; lines are drawn on the pitch on to determine whether the player in question had 2 players (or the slightest part of the defender) between themself and the goal. This can often take a lot longer than it should do. Bringing into contention multiple reasons one being the lines which are drawn (the camera angles never seem to show the lines being straight) and the fact that they are often so close that a decision can take multiple minutes, pausing player and fans celebrations and delaying the game.

    Human error seems more human when in real time. When a decision is made after looking at replays for minutes on end and multiple angles, still seems an incorrect decision it is hard to justify this error. Ref watch on Sky Sports News often still looks at VAR decisions which have been made especially the ones which have been made incorrectly. The justification that decisions are now correct but may slow down the game are more justified than the game being delayed, and the wrong decision still being made.

    On a personal note, the thing that often annoys me with VAR is when there is a 50/50 decision, the VAR has indicated that the on-pitch referee should review their decision on the pitch side monitor. I do not believe I have seen an instance yet where the referee has stuck with his original decision. Many times when it has been reviewed, every pundit has said the original decision is correct, every commentator and (it feels like) everyone on social media yet, because they were told to go check they overturn their original decision.

    Overall VAR in football right now is slow with the average decision taking 84 seconds and still makes controversial decisions by shown by the fact that this goal was no disallowed when Marc Cucurella had his hair pulled.

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