Video technology was meant to be the saviour of sport, it’s turning into its nemisis


My uneasy relationship with video technology in sport began in 2013.

The Aussies were 2-0 down in an away Ashes series and we desperately needed a spark. With three Tests to play, however, we were still in it and the third Test in Manchester was going to be the beginning of our fightback.

Pre-Instaknob Michael Clarke won the toss and elected to bat on the opening morning. Tick. Shane Watson and Chris Rogers got us off to a handy start before Watto smashed one to first slip, considered reviewing, and decided against it. Also tick.

Usman Khawaja was next in and wafted at a regulation Graeme Swann off spinner. After being given out caught behind, Khawaja reviewed the decision and replays showed daylight between bat and ball, plus a clunky bat-against-pad sound after the ball had passed. Easy decision – not out. To my horror, the greatest sporting shock since Collin ‘Funky’ Miller changed his hair from lightning blue to urine yellow ensued; Khawaja was walking back to the sheds.

Two big-name Australians weighed in.

“I can’t believe that. It’s just a staggering decision,” Warney said on commentary.

“That’s a shocker. That’s an absolute shocking decision.”

The PM got involved on Twitter:

After punching a completely innocent and painfully unyielding wall, I gathered my thoughts. I tried to to assess what really happened. I eventually managed to calm myself with the explanation that this ‘technology’ was all new, and we’re just getting used to it. Teething problems and all that. In a few years the video technology will be so advanced that robots will be making the decisions and will almost certainly never be wrong.

Five years down the line and the only robot advancements I’ve seen are in hoovering. Robot refs are nowhere to be seen. And the poor decisions keep on rollin’.

Saturday night saw one of the biggest blunders in recent history when the VAR operators put an intern in charge of the A-League Grand Final who failed to connect to the WiFi (or something like that), sending Newcastle’s dreams down the gurgler.

Down the road in Sydney, the Swans objected to a North Melbourne goal that they said was touched. Replays showed it was, but the goal stood. They went on to lose by two points.

Sporting bodies are like that mate who wins big on the punt but won’t put any money behind the bar.

It’s difficult to understand why, when I’ve got a 4k, slow mo camera in my phone, the cameras we used to make decisions appear to be potatoes. They have super slow-mo fixed on the Auskick kids at half-time, so why can’t they provide the same cameras for employees making decisions that affect the outcome of the games? I don’t blame the little guy up in the control room dealing with potato cameras. I’m all for the little guy, and he needs more support.

No doubt league execs will pass the buck, saying they employ a third-party company to do their video-review dirty work. Or that video operators “aren’t privy to the footage of the host broadcaster”, like free-to-air TV is some form of password-protected military grade footage.

It’s becoming a shambles that needs fixing. And fast.

What do you think?