Advances In Technology Are Used Frequently Today To Increase The Accuracy Of Decision Making In Sport, But Some Sports Are Not Keeping Up.

In the eyes of a fan of any sport, there will always be things about the game which cause arguments. Obviously to most people it is the dubious decision called by the arbiters who are are supposed to be impartial and make sure of fair play. In the domain of sport there will always be good goals disallowed, penalties given when they really shouldn’t have been, players given out when they were in, balls which land beyond the line but are called in and many other wrong decisions.

This is one of the reasons why sport has increasingly started utilising technology to provide back up confirmation of what the human eye thinks it has seen happening. Strangely, and for far too many reasons explore here, football has continued to be resistant to such a concept, but other sports have cheerfully embraced the technology. Fans who watch cricket will be used to the third umpire who is keeping a watch on the match off the pitch and with a profusion of technology to hand to confirm or deny shouts for LBW, or split second decisions when it is hard to see whether a player has been run out or not.

Tennis devotees are very familiar with Hawk-Eye (the same type of technology utilised in cricket) confirming whether a ball has bounced the ground inside or outside of the tramlines or not, and the sport has gone one step further in actually allowing players to question an agreed number of decisions per match, which are then checked using the technology.

Hawk-Eye employes several high-speed video cameras alongside computer software to accurately assess and show the result of the ball’s movement. It’s exceptionally clever stuff and yet the football authorities are reluctant to provide the technology to back up the three humans who take abuse from half of those watching each time they make a decision. The chant of ‘Where’s your glasses, referee?’ (or something slightly less polite but with the same meaning) still echoes in football grounds all over the country every match day. Although, as this is the 21st century, perhaps these days the cry should be ‘have you had your Laser eye surgery yet, referee?’!

Some sports use technology to assess unfair advantage, for example the sensors on sprinters and swimmers starting blocks which can define a false start considerably more accurately than the human eye. And American Football, of course, has used video replays for many years to check the on-pitch officials’ opinions, though this does mean that there are numerous interruptions to the play.

In some ways, these different technological advances are frequently becoming an aspect of the spectator’s experience also. Television broadcasts of snooker now regularly uses the Hawk-Eye system to demonstrate to the viewer exactly what the player is seeing, and can demonstrate possible shots before the cue ball is struck to show the viewer what options are open to the player.

Apart from professional sports, technology provides some pastimes with an acceptable process of playing what would really be ridiculously dangerous games. Laser combat games do just that by permitting the antagonists to shoot each other with their firearm’s Laser eye, causing no harm to the participants but allowing boys to be boys as far as lifelike war gaming is concerned. (I attempted this game years ago on a ‘team building’ day with work and found it a very uninteresting way to waste an afternoon!) Of course, there are some small risks involved as incorrect firing of the gun at the face can cause Laser eye damage, but any reputable company advertising such events will review usage and make sure of the safety of all those participating.

The laser gun is gradually finding its way into mainstream sport as it has been announced that such weapons will replace air pistols in the Modern Pentathlon at the upcoming London Olympics. And in other areas of sport, lasers are also used most efficiently to treat injuries without the need for invasive surgery, and Laser eye surgery is used by sports participants such as golfers to improve their vision and thus be able to see far more clearly what shot they are playing.

It feels like we’ve come a long way since the times when the 100 yard dash was timed by a man holding a stopwatch and John McEnroe stamped his feet and declared ‘you cannot be serious’. So come on, football! Isn’t it about time you learned to love technology too?

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