Home > Analysis, sport management, Sports, Technology > Will new technology spell the end of referees?

Will new technology spell the end of referees?

Every year we see technology related to sports advance further and further. I recently read an article called “How Technology is Affecting Sports,” written by Michael Coco on SportsNetworker, which inspired me to write this post. We see technology advance each and every year in Olympics and in professional sports as well. We have seen instant replay become slower and more defined. Instant replay is being used in almost every major professional sport, including some college sports.

The article cites the use of Radio Frequency Identification Technology, which is being experimented with in European Rugby.

“This micro location technology can transmit the exact coordinates of the ball and players at an astounding 2000 times per second. It can also be used to calculate movement, speed, accuracy, and even force of impact. If this technology was implemented in the US it could do away with any type of bad call in relation to ball location and it would essentially eliminate the guess work from officiating. Not only that, but the type of data we could receive before, during, and after every play would be nothing shy of amazing” (Coco 2010).

The use of this type of instant replay could eliminate the need for officials. If this was broadcasting the call, depending on the location of the ball, we wouldn’t need to use the officials’ eye to tell us whether the ball is out of bounds or not. As technology advances, we may see something that can sense where players feet are on the field. This would help us determine whether a player had both feet down or not or was out of bounds. The NFL is the league that would most benefit from this type of replay. Challenges would be no more, as the computer would tell us where the ball was or whether the player was down or not. The computer could tell us if the ball touched the ground or not, or if someone had caught the ball (depending on the location of their hands and the location of the ball).

This would play a huge role in baseball. It could tell us the location of a foul ball, whether it was foul or fair. Eventually, we could see technology make the call of balls and strikes, eliminating the subjectivity of an umpires strike zone. We already can see the pitch zones in games, which doesn’t seem to be perfected at this point (I see myself saying, “there is no way that pitch was that far outside” relatively often).

Technology like Dartfish is being used in the olympics, allowing athletes to perfect their form. Looking at replays of their previous runs and comparing it to their practice runs can help them to perfect their mechanics and determine what they are doing wrong. This raises the question of whether or not we have an oncoming asterisk era, similar to what we have seen in baseball with steroids. In the past, these athletes didn’t have the advantage of replay or technology to perfect their skill sets. Today’s athletes appear to have a severe advantage when compared to those of the past.

The NHL uses replay to determine whether a puck crossed the goal line. If the puck had some type of chip in it and the goal line was hooked up with the puck, we could use this technology to determine whether a shot was a goal or not (same with the NFL in determining whether the ball crossed the plane of the goal line or not). This would eliminate instant replay on that type of play.

Regardless of the sport, as technology increases, we less of a need for referees to be present. As of now we will need them in all sports for particular things, however, we may see their presence decreasing as technology advances. This would change sports as we know them. What do you think?

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  1. Anonymous
    May 15, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Dan, I do not see how this can totally happen. You need eyes on the field to see certain aspects of the game. Computer technology cannot provide that. I think the instant replays are good. They provide confirmation of the calls or corrections of the calls. We still need referees and umpires!! Considering my husband is a referee of basketball and an umpire of baseball.

  2. May 15, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you for your comment. I would just like to note that there is no possible way technology, given its CURRENT state, could replace the need for referees. However, as technology advances, we may see things come into play that have never been seen before. I also have friends and family members who are referees and umpires and wouldn’t like to acknowledge the fact that their jobs could be in danger in the future. This can’t allow us to lose sight of what could potentially happen, regardless of whether we like it or not. Thank you for your comment!

  3. June 8, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for publishing this it was useful for a paper I am at this time writing for my thesis. Thanks

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