There was a time when the old adage of “the referee’s decision is final” rang true in every sporting arena in the world, as loud-mouthed cry babies were shut down by someone in a black and white uniform – wielding a shrill whistle and a fearsome glare – that would put the fear of God in a pride of lions.
However, because newspaper columns and 24-hours sports news channels needed something to pad out their schedule with they decided to deride referees and umpires for not making accurate enough decisions.
Soon enough the governing bodies of many sports were ushering in space age technological solutions, which all came with the bold promise of entirely eradicating human error from the crucial decisions made by those who officiate elite level sport.
But have these tech solutions come good on their promise? Are sports now played to the letter of the law? And more importantly, is sport better off for big tech having its dirty paws all over its inner workings? That is what we plan to find out below.
Soccer has always had a problem with players not respecting referees and linesmen, but that disrespect has hit new levels now that VAR has come on the scene
Soccer – VAR Showing Accuracy Not Always a Good Thing
It is something of a rite of passage in soccer for a failing or under pressure manager to blame all his team’s shortcomings on the referee. This was a pastime made particularly popular by managers like Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, who both insisted on their player’s surrounding a referee and bombarding them with abuse after a controversial call.
Eventually the media got in on the act and pressured the likes of UEFA and FIFA to take action. First came goal line technology, which generally speaking everybody agreed was a good idea, as the decisions the technology made were cut and dried certainties, welcomed by sports bettors and footy fans alike. However, things then got messy, as the powers that be decided to start meddling in offside decisions and penalty awards. Suddenly referees were being called to pitch-side monitors to review plays, in much the same way NFL umpires are required to do, disrupting the normal cut and thrust of a game that brings people to Caesars sportsbook to wager on competitions like the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Champions League. The problem with this is that soccer is a sport that thrives on momentum and continuous action, rather than American football which a stop-start affair. It also turns out that deciphering the truth from a super slow-motion replay can sometimes be just as tricky as seeing the action in real time, meaning all bets are off as to whether VAR is really here to stay or if it will be scrapped at some point down the line.
Predictably there are now managers like Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Thomas Tuchel who all believe that the VAR technology itself is biased against their team.
Roger Federer has been a vocal critic of Hawk Eye technology in tennis, and there is no doubt that the technology has eroded some of the mystique of the sport it was supposed to improve
Tennis – Hawk Eye Rendering Umpires Redundant
Of course, sometimes a technological advancement can work perfectly, but that still does not always mean it is what’s best for the progression of a sport.
One of the most abiding memories of watching pro tennis throughout the 80s and 90s were the altercations between chair umpires and players, with John McEnroe particularly coming to mind. Despite the occasional animosity that existed between umpires and players, a healthy respect was fostered as players recognised the important role that chair umpires played.
The naissance of Hawk Eye technology did away with all of that, as line judges and chair judges were reduced to mannequins, whose only job was to update the score correctly (even that’s done on an iPad these days) and to ask for line calls to be reviewed by Hawk Eye. This has undoubtedly led to a distinct drop in the respect levels shown to umpires. Tennis was already a pretty solitary and sterile sport before big tech came along, now it would seem that the ATP and WTA are attempting to do away with all forms of human connection out on the court.