Many of us have our favourite sports teams and athletes who we cheer for whenever they are in action, we win together and we lose together, dust ourselves off and go again. With all the intensity of athletic matchups, it can be particularly frustrating if the referee doesn’t notice a crucial moment of play and gives the decision the other way. Tony Verna (then director of CBS Sports) is credited with the invention of video replay during a 1963 Army-Navy American college football game. Video replays were instantly recognised for how useful they can be to settle the dispute of a number of controversial moments. Video replays have been used to positive effect in American Football and tennis, but has yet to be implemented in Association Football, although there have been numerous calls from fans and critics for this to change.
Video replays play a big part in the success of NFL. A limited replay system was first implemented in 1986 and was then changed in 1999 so a system that is still used. Each coach is allowed to make two challenges throughout a game, a slight alteration was made in 2004 that allows for a third challenge if both of the prior two were successful. Challenges can only be made on certain reviewable calls, before a two-minute warning and only when they have one time-out remaining. Once the challenge has been made, the referee has a limit of 60 seconds to review the instant replay and make his decision accordingly.
Software like Hawk-Eye has been in place within professional tennis since 2005. This came to be following the 2004 US Open when it was found that a number of poor calls were made by Chair umpires. Hawk-Eye uses a number of cameras that cover all angles of the court, it then plays a computer rendering of the previous play to determine where the ball landed on the court. The only current con of the system is that there are a limited number of times it can be used by each player. Throughout each set, a player can make up to three challenges (four in a tie-break) although they keep each challenge if they are correct. Although putting a set number of challenges in place is good because it discourages players from challenging every call as a time wasting strategy, it can also leave a player with no challenges remaining when there is the blatant opportunity for an umpire decision to be challenged.
Much to the dismay of football fans around the world, video replays have never been used throughout football. England fans will remember Frank Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’ in the 2010 World Cup as a prime example of when video replays were needed. There has been an improvement in recent years thanks to the use of technology (similar to the tennis Hawk-Eye system) to judge whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line. Some football channels include retired referees as part of their coverage, whose job is to study the footage and determine if the referee made the correct decision on that occasion. This is all well and good, but in this instance, the retired referee has no affect on the game and in many cases they can highlight that the current ref made the incorrect decision, which is essentially rub salt in the wounds. Video Assistant Referees have been used in an international match between Italy and France, and there are current plans to trial the system at the upcoming 2018 World Cup.