Video Technology in Modern Sports: Which System is the Best?

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It was June 22, 1986, when Diego Maradona scored the (in)famous goal dubbed the Hand of God at the World Cup in Mexico. The referee did not see the Argentine using his hand to swerve the ball into the opposition net. If he did notice it, Maradona would have received a yellow card and his goal would’ve been disallowed.

Fast-forward 35 years and such a thing is no longer possible. At least not at the World Cup, which is one of the football championships in which VAR is used. The video assistant referee (VAR) is one of several technologies used in modern sports with the intention of ensuring fair play. Others include the Hawk-Eye (tennis), UDRS (cricket), and instant replay (American football, basketball, and so on).

The big question is which one is the best? That’s something we’ll now try to answer, giving the pros and cons of all the aforementioned technologies.

Decision Review System (UDRS)

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Cricket is one of the most popular sports for betting in India, which is just one of the many reasons why it’s important to ensure absolute fair play. The umpires’ mistakes can cost teams gravely, which is why cricket officials have been using the help of modern tech for a long time.

In the 1990s, cricket officials used TV replays to check dubious decisions. Then, in the early 2000s, the International Cricket Council (ICC) started working on the development of a new system called the Umpire Decision Review System, nowadays known as the UDRS.

It was 2009 when the system made its debut in an international Test series match between New Zealand and Pakistan. Today, the system uses several different technologies including video replays, Hawk-Eye, and Hot-Spot, all of which allow the umpires to review moments that last as short as one-hundredth of a second.

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The main advantage of the system is that it’s precise, with over 90% accuracy. What’s pointed out as the biggest con of the UDRS is that it takes too much of the match time. That’s pretty much the same complaint football fans have about VAR.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

Video Assistant Referee

In 2021, all the major football leagues are using VAR. How it works is that there’s an additional official in the VAR room whose job is to review controversial situations. If the VAR official spots that something’s wrong, they need to notify the main referee who’s on the pitch.

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It’s then up to the main ref to decide what to do next. The referee can go with his initial call, listen to the advice from the VAR room, or have a look at the video footage himself.

This is the reason why the VAR’s impact on the game depends on the referee. Some referees are okay without using the technology too often, letting the gameplay on. Others, however, tend to pause the game many times throughout the 90 minutes, which causes annoyance to some football fans.

Hawk-Eye

Sony developed the Hawk-Eye system with the intention of eliminating any controversies that could arise from close umpire calls. The system is so precise it can spot whether the ball is In or Out within less than one millimetre.

The trouble with it is that such moments happen frequently in tennis, with literally dozens of shots that could be reviewed. Obviously, checking each controversial moment would take too much time which is why the ATP and WTA have decided to introduce special Hawk-Eye rules.

Each player has the right to have three unsuccessful challenges per set, while in the case of a tiebreaker, an additional challenge is given. In the case of advantage sets (with no tiebreaks), the rule is that a player is allowed three challenges for every 12 games.

Replay Review

Instant replay

Versions of replay review systems are used in all the most popular US sports – NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. An instant replay can be requested either by the officials or by the coaches of each team. How many requests each coach has per game is something that depends on the league rules.

In the NFL, each coach can request two challenges per game by throwing a red flag onto the field. The same goes for the MLB, as well as the NHL. The number of reviews an NBA coach can request is one per game.

Other sports using a version of this system include rugby, fencing, field hockey, rodeo, and many others. Over in NASCAR, a technology called photo finish is used to determine which car has passed the finish line before the others.

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Rahul Roy
I am a computer guy by profession and a sports fanatic by choice.

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