Cricket, Rugby Union, Tennis and American Football... can VAR learn from other sports?
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 22/03/18 8:01am
The use of technology has become a fixed feature in cricket, tennis, rugby union, rugby league and American football, but has it always been a success in those sports?
Rugby league was the first to introduce a video referee, five years before rugby union first implemented the use of the television match official (TMO) in 2001. Tennis has also benefited from Hawk-Eye with the 2006 US Open the first grand-slam tennis tournament to use it to call shots in or out.
The third umpire debuted in Test cricket in 1992 at Kingsmead, Durban with India's Sachin Tendulkar became the first batsman to be dismissed (run out) by using television replays. Cricket has used Hawk-Eye since 2001 and the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS) in Test cricket since 2008, One-Day Internationals since 2011, and Twenty20 International from October last year.
With the benefits of VAR still a hot topic of debate, can football learn from the use of technology in other sports? Here, as part of Support The Ref week on Sky Sports, we asked Sky Sports pundits Nasser Hussain (cricket), Will Greenwood (rugby union), Mark Petchey (tennis) and Jeff Reinebold (American football) for their views…
Cricket - Nasser Hussain
What is DRS?
DRS is a technology-based system used in cricket. The system was first introduced in Test cricket, for the sole purpose of reviewing controversial decisions made by the on-field umpires as to whether or not a batsman had been dismissed.
"Before it was introduced it was a Duncan Fletcher idea a long time ago while we were working together. We had some shocking decisions go against us and he said wouldn't it be great if we had a procedure where you could query the decision and they could check it. It was finally implemented and as long as you have the right frame of mind, it works.
"Some people thought everything would be sorted out and all errors would be corrected but that's not it. It was brought in because say the umpires were 80 per cent correct for their decision making, if you can get it up to 85 per cent then it's had a positive effect on the game. Things had to be tinkered with though. When it first came in it was chaotic but slowly and gradually on and off the field they worked out how to use it and how to get a structure in place.
"When it first came in it was almost like the third umpire was one of the lesser umpires but in fact they soon realised that the third umpire had to be one of the more senior umpires. They also had to be someone educated in technology and in broadcasting so that they knew exactly what they were doing and what they were asking for.
"The other thing where cricket has been very good with broadcasters is communication. We haven't seen this yet in football but it is still very early days. When the technology first came into cricket they got it wrong. They didn't put the process on the big screen so the fans at the ground, who had paid there hard earned cash, were being short changed. If you were sitting at home you were in fact getting better pictures and a better understanding of what was going on. That's not right and it was put right because now you get those big decisions on the big screen.
"You get it at Wimbledon with Hawk-Eye and the line calls and it creates a great atmosphere. There's also the communication with umpires and you can now hear exactly what the on-field umpires are saying to their off-field colleague. You get that in rugby as well but at the moment we are not hearing it in football. We need to hear what the referee is asking and then what the VAR official is saying back."
"It's definitely changed the game for the better. If you took it away now I think people would say cricket would be a worse game for it. Back in my day there were some shocking decisions. Umpiring is not an easy job and the use of technology has improved the overall decision making. It doesn't clear everything up so there's still that debate down the pub regarding decisions afterwards.
"My problem with football is the subjectivity. It's a moving game and there's a bit of feel about it from the referees whereas in cricket most of the decisions are pretty clear, yes or no. The first ever decision for VAR was an offside and it was clear as day so it worked but with penalty decisions there is a lot more subjectivity. It's there to overrule the absolute shocker and not to overrule the fifty, fifty calls. It's a different game but as long as they realise it's only for the shocking decisions, it can work."
How DRS works...
- Each team can only have two unsuccessful reviews in each inning during a Test match
- A fielding team may use the system to dispute a
- The fielding team captain or the batsman being dismissed invokes the challenge by signalling a
- Additionally, at their discretion, field umpires may request the Third Umpire to review certain close calls such as line calls, boundary calls, or for close catch calls where neither umpire is sure if a catch was made.
- Once the challenge is invoked, acknowledged, and agreed, the Third Umpire reviews the play.
- Under the DRS rule, only clearly incorrect decisions are reversed; if the Third Umpire's analysis is within established margins of error or is otherwise inconclusive, the on-field umpire's original call stands.
Rugby union - Will Greenwood
A match organiser may appoint a television match official (TMO), who uses technological devices to clarify situations relating to...
- The grounding of the ball in in-goal.
- Touch or touch-in-goal in the act of grounding the ball or the ball being made dead.
- Where there is doubt as to whether a kick at goal has been successful.
- Where match officials believe an infringement may have occurred in the playing area leading to a try or preventing a try.
- Foul play, including sanctions.
"Honestly I find it laughable that you can just say: 'Don't want it,' and not try it, not see if you can iron out the creases, and get to a stage where the VAR gets faster, gets better.
"There have been times where it has taken a couple of minutes to get there, and it can be a little bit frustrating, but big championships, big titles, wages, jobs, it's an important current situation.
"If you're in that play-off game to get into the Premier League, the £200m game, you want to make damn sure that decisions are correct.
"Any time you introduce technology, there will be those who open their arms in celebration, where you get more right than wrong, and there are those who will say: 'Nah, it will never work.'
"What it never, ever promises to be is absolutely fail-safe, 100 per cent perfect every time."
TMO - Rugby Union
Any of the match officials, including the TMO, may recommend a review by the TMO. The reviews will take place in accordance with the TMO protocol.
Tennis - Mark Petchey
Use of Hawk-Eye - Tennis
Hawk-Eye technology uses a system of cameras to track the lines of a tennis court and the movement of the ball on that court through space and time. Computers then convert that information into a virtual image that displays the ball's trajectory with a shadow to mark exactly where the ball hit on the court.
"It's been hugely successful. Hawk-Eye has been a big hit. I don't think tournaments could run without it anymore. Players are comfortable with it and I know it had its sceptics in the past, but they've all been put to bed now.
"I think we would like to embrace even more technology and more video replays if possible.
"Roger Federer has never been a fan of Hawk-Eye, but he accepts it and he understands the positive nature of it. I don't think there is anybody in tennis who doesn't want it - everybody wants it.
"I think there's room for it to be even greater as well. I think tennis in the not too distant future - like the Next Gen Finals - will end up having no linespeople at all in probably the next 12 months."
How the On-Court Challenge System Works
- Each player/team is allowed a maximum of three incorrect challenges in a normal set after which they are not permitted to challenge again in that set.
- If a set goes to a tiebreak, this limit of incorrect challenges is increased from three to four for the set.
- Challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.
American football - Jeff Reinebold
NFL Instant Replay Process
- THE PLAY: The vast majority of plays are officiated on the field without instant replay’s involvement. However, certain plays require a second look.
- THE CHALLENGE: Reviews are initiated by a head coach (two per game; a third challenge is allowed if the coach wins the first two challenges) or the replay official (any play after the two-minute warning, scoring plays and turnovers).
- THE PROCESS: Replay technicians isolate the best angles for consulting with relay officials and referees during replay reviews and making replay decisions.
- THE CONSULT: While the referee meets with the other officials and the coach on the field, the NFL’s senior designated member of the officiating department will examine the play.
- THE REVIEW: The referee watches the play back and from the he will review it. After the referee reviews the play, a senior designated member of the officiating department will make the final decision on the review.
- THE DECISION: The referee announces the final ruling on the field.
"The game is so fast now - the athletes are bigger, faster - and so it's harder now to officiate than it has ever been. So, in that sense, the use of technology has been a good thing.
"Coaches and players were the biggest advocates for it, because their lives are most affected by the officiating. But the officials themselves, early on, pushed back on it because of the added scrutiny it would bring. Another concern was how it would interrupt the flow of the game, with two or three-minute stoppages of play.
"Coaches are constantly refining how they use the system. They can challenge a call on the field but, if incorrect, it costs them a timeout, and you saw in the playoffs how crucial that can be.
In 2016, the average review in the NFL lasted two minutes and 25 seconds.
"New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton had two challenges at the end of the game against the Minnesota Vikings - he got caught up in the emotion on the sideline - but that was a big mistake as he then wasn't able to use a timeout to organise his defense for the last play of the game that the Vikings scored the game-winning touchdown on.
"Also, in the stadium, if there's a controversial play, they'll immediately put that on the big screen. They'll run a replay of that over and over to try and incite the home crowd and affect the outcome of the call.
"It shouldn't, but it's human nature. The right call should be the right call. And, in most cases, the officials do a good job. Technology just aids them in ensuring an error in judgement shouldn't impact the outcome of a game."
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