Keeping an eye on things - video referral system

Umpire 450

Hockey at the 2012 Olympic Games will not just be different in that the colour of the ball and the pitch are new. Like all sports the question of technology is one that has constantly cropped up in hockey, and while the organisers will never be able to please everyone, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have faith in the video referral system to deliver more clarity and engagement for spectators than ever before. Umpire and Wilson

As LOGOC’s Hockey and Wheelchair Rugby Sports Manager Sue Catton explains: “One of our focuses as an organisation is to really make sure that the spectator experience is advanced, off the back of other events where it hasn’t necessarily been absolutely clear what the referral question is and the crowd have been left unsure of what’s going on. That’s been one of the key requirements in defining the technology and processes to deliver the video referral systems.”

LOCOG has recruited six National Technical Officials, all FIH grade umpires, to support the announcers and the video board operators. The testing for the system has been extensive, with feedback from coaches and players a big part of the process. Finding the balance between accuracy, clarity and speed is just one of the challenges facing LOGOC and the International Hockey Federation but the organisers are confident that players, coaches, TV audiences and spectators will be satisfied when the tournament gets underway. Where the referral system differs from those used before is the depth and breadth of technology available to the Video Umpire, a fact that should ensure that a wrong call or a mistake from a Match Umpire does not make the difference between a side getting their hands on a medal or not.

Most importantly, Catton is happy with the officiating system as a whole: “I feel we’ve got a very good mix for London with good technology and communications systems supported by experienced and trained personnel. This will allow us to support the FIH to give the quickest and most accurate outcome to those referrals. For the first time at an FIH world level event the Video Umpire will be able to see, select and replay at various speeds, eight different camera feeds in the video referral room, all  independently of the TV Director.”

What the officials think

Two of Great Britain’s Olympic umpires gave us their thoughts on the refined video referral system.

Frances Blockumpire referral
“Obviously, it took getting used to when we first started using it. Teams would waste it – for instance when tempers are over a contentious decision, players call for a referral convinced they’re right, only to be contradicted by the technology. Now, the teams have become more focused and use it correctly, and believe in it more. We had the Test Event, and it worked well. People now have experience of utilising the technology. So I think, overall, it will be well received.”

Hamish JamsonHamish Jamson
“Normally we see what the people at home see, but the Olympics is different. We have to ensure that the cameras are synchronised in order to see the incidents effectively. All the different angles help, and the more the better. There are things we can do as umpires to help make the job easier.
We look at replays proactively so we can be half-prepared for contentious moments before they happen, and this minimises delay time. We are also working on reducing radio communication, to help us come to a conclusion as quickly as possible. Of course, when the stakes are higher, decisions will take a greater amount of time.”

Quick guide to referrals

• The Match Umpire is the only person who can refer a decision to the Video Umpire, either directly or after a request from any player on either side.
• To request a review the player must go through the Match Umpire. The player makes the request by forming a ‘T’ with their arms. The Match Umpire then mimes a TV screen to indicate the decision has been referred.
• Each team is allowed one referral request during the match. Their referral requests are limited only to decisions within the 23 metre area relating to the award (or non-award) of goals, penalty strokes and penalty corners.
• The Match Umpire may also refer decisions to the Video Umpire when they are not convinced that they have taken, or are able to take, the correct decision relating to the awarding (or non-awarding) of a goal.
• In the event that the Video Umpire’s advice is that there is no clear reason to change the Match Umpire’s original decision, the referring team loses its right of referral.
• If the video evidence is inconclusive, the Match Umpire’s original decision stands.

National Technical Officials assisting LOGOC
Andy Mair, Bruce Bale, Dave Dowdall, Andrew Kennedy, Neil McAlpine and Paul Walker

GB’s Olympic officials at London 2012
Women’s tournament: Sheila Morrow (Judge), Frances Block (Umpire);
Men’s tournament: Hamish Jamson (Umpire), Ged Curran (Umpire),
Nathan Stagno (Umpire)