I’ve written a few times recently about the video challenge system that is beginning to be used at big volleyball tournaments. I am a huge supporter of the use of technology in officiating professional sport. I believe that if there exists the possibility to ensure correct match outcomes are achieved, then we are morally bound to explore those possibilities.
I was recently surprised to hear of professionals who were against using technology, and stunned to hear their reasoning. I think these arguments are easily refutable.
“It’s not how sport was supposed to be” This is a strange line to draw. As much as we can put ourselves in the minds of those who developed or codified the various sports we can be absolutely certain about one thing; modern professional sport bears absolutely no resemblance to sport as ‘it was supposed to be’. Not in any single area. The Olympics were designed to a test of pure spirit and specifically to exclude the working class whose spirit wasn’t pure (everyone interested in sport and the Olympics should read The Lords of the Ring, today). As late as the 1920’s (see ‘Chariots of Fire’), actually training was considered tantamount to cheating. As late as the 1980’s, training full time was a function of evil regimes (see Soviet Union, East Germany et al) and was at least morally cheating. Volleyball was designed to give light exercise to men for whom basketball was too strenuous. Women were excluded from participating at all. Nothing about sport is ‘how it was supposed to be’, why should we choose one random thing that should stay the same?
“Sport is about the human element and officiating mistakes are part of that” I wholehearted agree with the first part of that statement. It is human beings put under stress and responding to that stress that makes sport compelling; the participating human beings. Officials are not part participants. When sports were first developed and the relevant founders searched for means of arbitrating the contests. There were no cameras, no TV, no computers. A neutral human being was literally the highest form of technology available. Some sports have readily accepted that this reality is no longer the relevant. Track and field, although the most ancient of sports, has updated technology at every stage. Hand held stopwatches and tape measures were the first to go. Human beings are no longer the highest form of available technology. It didn’t make track and field less human. Officials are not part of the ‘humanity’ of sport, the participants are.
Those are arguments about why technology should not be used. For some reason the negative arguments always take a greater role in any discussion than the positive arguments. One rarely hears of the arguments why technology should be used. I can think of a few.
“Ridiculousness” Major sporting events take place in an environment is which multiple TV cameras using high definition, high speed technology view every scene from multiples angle and make those pictures available, with instant analysis, to television stations, internet portals and in some cases stadium video screens. Spectators have access to live video feeds on smart devices, or at least friends at home who will text them within seconds of an event occurring. We live in a world where literally every viewer of a sporting event knows exactly what happened, within seconds of it happening except the match officials who are actively prohibited from knowing due to some notion of compromising the ‘humanity’ of a sporting event. That is the height of ridiculousness.
“Lives and Livelihoods” Modern professional sport is undertaken by professionals. Professionals depend for their livelihoods on the outcome of games. The families of professionals depend for their livelihoods on the outcome of games. And that is only the direct participants. Clubs and associations employ dozens of other people whose lives and livelihoods depend on the outcomes of the games. Without being dramatic, the lives of hundreds of people can be affected by a single decision. And yet the technology exists to ensure correct decisions. And what of the lives of the referees and umpires themselves? Referees’ decisions are judged using means that are unavailable to the referees themselves. In the most extreme examples in football, referees (and their families) are publicly embarrassed, often vilified and can be subjected to death threats that continue for years after the event. And yet the technology exists to ensure correct decisions.
As I said, I am in favour of using technology to officiate professional sporting events.