New Ideas In Technology Are Used Increasingly To Enhance The Accuracy Of Decision Making In Sport, But Some Sports Are Not Keeping Up.

To a follower of any sport, there will inevitably be areas of the game that will cause arguments. Clearly the biggest thing is the dodgy decision made by the officials who are are supposed to be impartial and make sure of fair play. In the world of sport there will always be genuine goals disallowed, penalties awarded when they really shouldn’t have been, cricketers given out when they were in, balls which land outside the line but are called in and so on.

This is a good reason why sport has more frequently started calling upon technology to provide additional confirmation of what the human eye is convinced it has seen occuring. Typically, and for too many complex reasons to go into here, football has stayed resistant to such an idea, but other sports have willingly embraced the technology. Those who enjoy cricket will be used to the third umpire who is keeping a watch on the match away from the pitch and with a variety of technology to use to confirm or refute shouts for LBW, or fingertip decisions when it is impossible to see whether a player has been run out or not.

Tennis followers are very used to Hawk-Eye (the same kind of technology used in cricket) confirming whether a ball has bounced the ground inside or outside of the white lines or not, and the sport has gone one step further in actually allowing players to challenge an agreed number of decisions in each set, which are then resolved using the technology.

Hawk-Eye utilises several high-speed video cameras together with computer software to accurately map and indicate the results of the ball’s movement. It’s exceptionally clever stuff but still the football powers that be are reluctant to use it to back up the three officials who take the flack from half the fans whenever they make a decision. The cry of ‘Where’s your glasses, referee?’ (or something slightly less polite but inferring the same thing) is still common in football grounds all around the country every weekend. Although, as this is the 21st century, perhaps these days the chant should be ‘have you had your Laser eye surgery yet, referee?’!

Particular sports utilise technology to assess unfair advantage, such as the sensors on athletes and swimmers starting blocks which can record a false start far more accurately than the human eye. And American Football, of course, has relied upon video evidence for many years to check the on-pitch officials’ judgements, though this does create numerous interruptions to the play.

In some ways, these kind of technological advances are now becoming part of the spectator’s experience as well. Television footage of snooker now regularly uses the Hawk-Eye system to demonstrate to the viewer exactly what the player is looking at, and can suggest likely shots before the cue ball is struck to show the viewer what options are open to the player.

As well as professional sports, technology provides some hobbies with a safe means of playing what would mostly be stupidly dangerous games. Laser combat games do precisely that by allowing the players to aim at each other with their gun’s Laser eye, causing no injury to the participants but allowing boys to be boys as far as lifelike war gaming is concerned. (I had a go at this game once on a ‘team building’ trip with my fellow employees and considered it a thoroughly boring way to fill an afternoon!) Of course, there are some slight risks involved as reckless firing of the gun at the face can cause Laser eye damage, but any reputable company laying on such events will check on usage and look after the safety of all those participating.

The laser gun is gradually making its way into mainstream sport as it has been declared that such firearms will take the place of air pistols in the Modern Pentathlon at the upcoming London Olympics. And in other areas of sport, lasers are also used very effectively to treat health problems without the requirement for invasive surgery, and Laser eye surgery is used by sports participants such as golfers to enhance their vision and so be able to see far better what shot they are playing.

It seems that 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 shook his head and declared ‘you cannot be serious’. So get with it, football! Isn’t it about time you started to use technology too?

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