Handheld video replays for referees

The post match bar stories are legion, whether it be rugby or football, according to the fans, the referee ruined the game.
But now the Scottish arm of a US electronics company claims to have developed a portable hand held device that could once, and for all silence the tap-room chatter and banish forever such infamous incidents as the Dundee ‘phantom goal’ against Partick Thistle when Les Mottram waved play on after the ball rebounded out of the net after hitting a stanchion.
According to manufacturers Cadence the computerised system, which would allow referees to see an instant playback of events on any sports pitch via a hand-held screen is so sophisticated that so long as the camera feeds are there the system can play up to four different views of such infamous incidents as Maradonna’s hand of God, the moment the Argentinian striker punched the ball into the net to knock England out of the world cup.
“We believe this technology is going to revolutionise the game,” said Mark Gallagher, Cadence’s European marketing director.
Called Scanz, the system, which uses a computer chip to store the images rather than video tape, allows referees to simply punch in how far back they want to go from the moment an incident occurred and the device will instantly start to play the picture.
Currently on trial in the US at American football matches, where the longest time taken to consult its TV evidence has been 15 seconds, there are also plans to sell the device to fans.
Though controversially, the version planned for the terraces would also embrace a button allowing those watching the game to vote over their verdict to the referee.
A concept that if allowed to happen could see a modern computerised version of the famous Roman ‘thumbs down’ used to sentence gladiators to death in the Coliseum.
And see the fans putting over their view of infamous incidents like Morten Wieghorst’s disputed goal at St Johnstone last week.
The note book sized devices, which work along similar lines to mobile phones, pick up a signal transmitted from a central point in the stadium.
By linking the live feeds from TV cameras at the ground the Cadence system can then beam the pictures down to the Scanz.
“It’s really just like a mobile phone,” said Gallagher, adding that unlike mobile phones the systems represent no health risk. “The key thing about it is that it could really could cut all of the controversy. It gives you instant rewind and zoom.”
But it is a revolution that can only happen if the technology gets the go-ahead from football’s ruling bodies and the prospects do not look good.
As far as officials at Fifa the sport’s ruling body are concerned the clever little screens have got a red card even before they have got into the ground.
“For the time being technology is not a viable solution because our view is that if anything is introduced it must be available for every pitch on which football is played,” said a Fifa spokesman.
According to the Swiss-based body, the referee’s frailties are as much a part of the beautiful game as the ball itself.
“The referee is part of the fabric of the game. We are aware of the fact that they are now facing immense pressures but it is still a human game and they provide another element of conversation alongside the passion.”
A romantic view of the ref surprisingly shared by the fans themselves. Generally more used to questioning the man in black’s parentage on the issue of technology they have rushed to his support.
“We still think that there is a case for the referee being shot as in Latin countries but if you force him to make the right decisions then where would all of our conspiracy theories go?” said Jerry Dunbar, Editor of ‘Not the View’ the Celtic fanzine.
A luddite’s approach to technology surprisingly backed by the St Johnstone manager, Sandy Clark may have been robbed last weekend but a hand held TV is not the answer.
“Football has been going on for a 100 years and human error is part of it and it’s an important part of the game, whether it’s the referee or the players.
“The referee can never win. If you go to a match you’ll learn it’s about opinions and I think there’s enough pressure on the referee as it is,” said Clark.
Ironically the only group out of step with the sport are the referees.
“We are always interested in looking at new developments if we think that they can help referees and we would await with interest any information on this,” said Donald McVicar, Referee Development Officer of the Scottish Football Assocaition.
“We have got to experiment with technology but it has to be seen to be workable and economically viable.”
A policy which would rule out another alternative to the hand held TV screens put forward by the fans which involved wiring the referee to the mains.