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Video Referees: A potential solution

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Video Referees: A potential solution

Words: Alex Davis

Rugby League may have taken a back seat for a few of us last weekend as two events, in particular, took centre stage.

All the Super League games were done and dusted by the weekend so many of us enjoyed the huge thrills that came with an England World Cup win in the cricket and Novak Djokovic’s record-breaking Wimbledon win.

One thing those two events had in common was the way in which the video aspect of their officiating is implemented.

It’s certainly a big topic currently in Rugby League. Should there be a video referee? Why, when they check a try, is it taking so long? And why aren’t they at every game? These are just a few of the questions that seem to get asked every week.

But those two events at the weekend could well provide a solution that would appease plenty of the parties involved.

One of the key components of the video systems used in both cricket and tennis is the ability for the players themselves to choose what is checked and what isn’t, with the exception of run outs in cricket which, by and large, are all checked.

In cricket, each team is permitted one wrong challenge per innings. If they’re correct in their challenge, they keep it. And the same goes for tennis. Each player gets three challenges per set and they also keep their challenges if correct.

So instead of the referees deciding whether they are sure enough to award the try without reference upstairs, they should either award the try or not, as they see fit, and the captain of either side has 15 seconds to decide whether they want to challenge. Each side could have a challenge per game which they would, of course, keep if they were correct.

This would go some way to halting the recent upsurge of players asking for a try to be checked by the video referee even when the decision is perhaps a clear one. If the players are so sure, they should challenge it. But be aware, if they’re wrong and another decision comes along that they aren’t happy with, they won’t have the chance to challenge as Jason Roy found out in England’s Cricket World Cup semi-final against Australia.

View this article on TotalRL.com

Edited by Total Rugby League

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Not really comparable.  IMHO.   The umpire is virtually always in a perfect position.  Very often rugby players cannot ever really be in a good position and most are moaning and complaining even before they get out of the dressing rooms.

All we have to do is leave it to the referee.  If he is not sure then let him review it.  Why bother with him having to make up his mind first. If unsure... and something may have gone on earlier, say off side, then review.

In the cricket 6 overthrow controversy I wonder why neither NZ or Umpires did not review?  (I thought it was legitimate BTW)

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6 minutes ago, Rhinoferg said:

If it ain't broken don't fix it. Video ref aspect of RL is fine as it is. 

the only issue IMHO is the time it takes but the NRL prove it doesnt have to, they are quite quick. watch it and make a decision.. if it is taking that long then just send it back to the onfield decision without sufficient evidence to overturn

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26 minutes ago, Rhinoferg said:

If it ain't broken don't fix it. Video ref aspect of RL is fine as it is. 

It is broken though. All the points made in the OP are bugbears of many in the game, not least of all fans. With the exception of football (who are having a nightmare with VR decisions) RL uses Video Tech in the least efficient way of all the major sports the currently use it IMO. The only good thing we have is the idea to take the refs call if the VR isn't clear. The NRL bunker is much more affective. I do like the idea of sides having a set number of reviews as well - it would take a degree of the awful appealing for everything culture away from the game. 

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26 minutes ago, RP London said:

the only issue IMHO is the time it takes but the NRL prove it doesnt have to, they are quite quick. watch it and make a decision.. if it is taking that long then just send it back to the onfield decision without sufficient evidence to overturn

The VR can simply give his opinion. Try, No Try or Unsure/Unsighted. His opinion.

This gives the Ref time to consider his initial thought (and he need not give it out loud) and then simply give his decision.

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2 minutes ago, Rupert Prince said:

The VR can simply give his opinion. Try, No Try or Unsure/Unsighted. His opinion.

This gives the Ref time to consider his initial thought (and he need not give it out loud) and then simply give his decision.

yes that would be the other way to do it.. but not endless angles over and over again that still dont show if the ball is grounded.

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27 minutes ago, RP London said:

yes that would be the other way to do it.. but not endless angles over and over again that still dont show if the ball is grounded.

And a big screen would help the Ref, rather than leave him standing as a spare part.

If it's not on TV then frankly the controversy is strictly limited. Read the result in the paper.

Edited by Rupert Prince
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VR takes far too long and is one of if not the worst aspect of the game as a spectator. It was fun for the first few times but now is so obvious most of the time it’s pointless. And that Try / No Try clock is a pathetic gimmick. 

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Which is most important, a quick decision or a correct decision.


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15 minutes ago, Padge said:

Which is most important, a quick decision or a correct decision.

i don't want to wait 5 minutes for a decision. The ref is there and makes a call, if the video ref cant see a reason to overrule relatively quickly they shouldn't go over it too in depth IMHO. how many times do we see them take ages and the call is still "I cant see anything, go with the on field". if there is an obvious reason to change it change it if not then go back to the on field but much quicker than some we see now... equally there are some that are very very obvious but they still look at it from 3-4 angles.. just give the damn decision!

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I'm not a fan of the VR as it isn't at every game, and I've seen too many occasions when the VR has got it completely wrong e.g. Rhinos scoring against Bradford (at magic?). But, if we have to have it, then where we are now seems to be in the right direction but it would be better if was more like the NRL bunker.

The VR was introduced really because the Sky commentary muppets were intent on finding controversy at every televised game and would go on endlessly about anything missed by the officials (which, strangely, doesn't seem to happen anywhere near as much with the NRL commentary)

As regards the ref making the first call - IMO the on field ref should make the decision because that's what happens at the vast majority of RL games,. If the ref feels the necessity to check their decision then let them but they should make it known what their opinion is.

As to playing around with having a team challenge to a decision it might work, maybe one available in each half?

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Sky pay money to use it, so the referees are told to do it.

Without naming any individual, when Sky first decided to use the screen one referee at the time told me that they were told by the RFL that if they awarded a try without using the video replay and it was later proven he was wrong then he wouldn't be refereeing again the following week. Hence they quite rightly protected their own backsides.

Sky also wanted them to use the screen as often as possible so that the people looking at the screen in the ground would also see the advert shown while awaiting the decision.

Furthermore, as Sky are paying for it then they see no point in using it at matches which they are not involved in.

They aren't really bothered what people at the ground think about the time i takes to get the decision because they have already paid to go to the match .... they are more bothered about building up the tension for those watching it in their armchair at home and who then might decide to renew their Sky package the next time it is required.

I personally don't mind it and I can never remember it taking 5 minutes for a decision (yes, it might seem like it, but often it is no more than 30-40 seconds) and what's the rush anyway ?

Edited by RL does what Sky says

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One way to really improve the video ref would be to allow him to open his eyes and watch what actually happened before he comes to his decision.


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I'm not sure of what the problem is that we are trying to fix tbh. And we need to be clear on that before we offer a solution.

Probably the main improvement I could see would be slightly slicker technology. I think it was in origin the other day that on the match winning try the ref asked for obstruction to be checked, and by the time it got to us seeing it, the VR had already checked this. I think the same could be done for tries from kicks - the VR should be checking that the second the player puts the ball down. But I think a lot of it is down to the technology, particularly on BBC, they seem very slow offering up certain angles.

The challenges idea is interesting, but as soon as we see obvious blunders by refs people will be clamouring back for the current system.

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19 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

Sky pay money to use it, so the referees are told to do it.

Without naming any individual, when Sky first decided to use the screen one referee at the time told me that they were told by the RFL that if they awarded a try without using the video replay and it was later proven he was wrong then he wouldn't be refereeing again the following week. Hence they quite rightly protected their own backsides.

Sky also wanted them to use the screen as often as possible so that the people looking at the screen in the ground would also see the advert shown while awaiting the decision.

Furthermore, as Sky are paying for it then they see no point in using it at matches which they are not involved in.

They aren't really bothered what people at the ground think about the time i takes to get the decision because they have already paid to go to the match .... they are more bothered about building up the tension for those watching it in their armchair at home and who then might decide to renew their Sky package the next time it is required.

I personally don't mind it and I can never remember it taking 5 minutes for a decision (yes, it might seem like it, but often it is no more than 30-40 seconds) and what's the rush anyway ?

I don’t think Sky do pay for it. It costs X amount for the screen to be at games and will come off the top end of the TV deal. If for example we wanted the screen at every game we would lose more money out of the TV deal for each one. Or we would do via a third party with a obvious cost to it. 

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I like the idea of it being as it is to be honest, i don't mind a challenge by coaches if anything, maybe a challenge by a captain, but it seems to be fine to me. It's transparent, the only thing i'd potentially change at the moment is the referee sending it up with a decision. The referee is unsure of the decision, so any bias by sending it up with one (where the decision has to be overturned) undermines the system a little bit for me.

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58 minutes ago, overtheborder said:

I like the idea of it being as it is to be honest, i don't mind a challenge by coaches if anything, maybe a challenge by a captain, but it seems to be fine to me. It's transparent, the only thing i'd potentially change at the moment is the referee sending it up with a decision. The referee is unsure of the decision, so any bias by sending it up with one (where the decision has to be overturned) undermines the system a little bit for me.

The reason the referee gives a decision on a try before sending it to the video referee is the same as it is in cricket .... the official himself is unsure on whether it is a try (or lbw in cricket) and it also might be that the video replay is not conclusive (ie : in RL, a player dives over between several defenders and the ball is covered by a mass of bodies .. or in cricket, the ball might or might not have just clipped the wicket). In such cases the decisions are borderline but at least the official has given his view. If the replay conclusively proves otherwise then I think most people accept that the referee/umpire had a hard decision to make and it really doesn't look bad on him nor the game as a whole.

If the decision was sent to the video referee without the field official giving his viewpoint, who would then make the final decision if the video replay was also inconclusive ?

Edited by RL does what Sky says

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17 hours ago, RL does what Sky says said:

The reason the referee gives a decision on a try before sending it to the video referee is the same as it is in cricket .... the official himself is unsure on whether it is a try (or lbw in cricket) and it also might be that the video replay is not conclusive (ie : in RL, a player dives over between several defenders and the ball is covered by a mass of bodies .. or in cricket, the ball might or might not have just clipped the wicket). In such cases the decisions are borderline but at least the official has given his view. If the replay conclusively proves otherwise then I think most people accept that the referee/umpire had a hard decision to make and it really doesn't look bad on him nor the game as a whole.

If the decision was sent to the video referee without the field official giving his viewpoint, who would then make the final decision if the video replay was also inconclusive ?

Yeah I see what you're saying although cricket is slightly different in the sense that the only reason the video decision is made with an on-field decision is that the captain has asked for a review. If the umpire sends it up for a run out for instance, there isn't a decision made. I do see though that rugby league in general seems more subjective in this sense. For me, in terms of who has the say in this would be the video ref - I'd rather the person sitting analysing the footage override the person on the field. But to be fair I've seen loads of decisions that could go either way and as you say are inconclusive.

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18 hours ago, overtheborder said:

I like the idea of it being as it is to be honest, i don't mind a challenge by coaches if anything, maybe a challenge by a captain, but it seems to be fine to me. It's transparent, the only thing i'd potentially change at the moment is the referee sending it up with a decision. The referee is unsure of the decision, so any bias by sending it up with one (where the decision has to be overturned) undermines the system a little bit for me.

I 100% agree with this, it seems pointless for the ref to give a decision before send it to the VR. He would give the decision on the field and not refer it if he was sure what had happened.

I like the idea of referrals by the captain, I'd allow 3 per game and if the original decision was overturned, you do not lose the referral. I'd also allow it to be used for foul play as well as tries.

Edited by DOGFATHER

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One reason the video clock is on the screen for so long is to get maximum TV exposure for the company who sponsor it.Bores me to death the time it takes to make a decision.NRL it only takes up to 10 seconds and their Refs don't seem to use it as much.

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The reason RL is behind sports like cricket and tennis is nothing to do with player referrals, and more to do with the investment in the technology used.

In cricket they took years to get it to the point they are in now. They replaced hotspot with RTS, they improved the accuracy of ball tracking to improve confidence in the technology. Protocols have been brought in to solve problems rather than confuse them, which seems to be the RL way. "Umpire's call" now doesn't lead to a review being lost for example.

In rugby league, we still rely on slow motion replays and different camera angles. Nothing that can take subjectivity out of a decision, which is where the technology would work.

Should scrap it imo. 

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I actually agree with the OP. The ref should give a decision - an actual decision, not a guess like we sometimes get now - and teams should get two challenges each. I have called for this for a few years now.


I can confirm 30+ less sales for Scotland vs Italy at Workington, after this afternoons test purchase for the Tonga match, £7.50 is extremely reasonable, however a £2.50 'delivery' fee for a walk in purchase is beyond taking the mickey, good luck with that, it's cheaper on the telly.

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On 16/07/2019 at 15:19, Dave T said:

 

The challenges idea is interesting, but as soon as we see obvious blunders by refs people will be clamouring back for the current system.

Maybe, but if you look at the cricket, it is interesting that the blame for poor decisions in the last two games was put as much, if not more, on Bairstow and Guptill (who wasted previous reviews) as on the umpire who eventually made a poor decision. The ref should still be able to send the decision up blank if he genuinely didn't see the ball grounded or whether a foot brushed the touchline.

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I can confirm 30+ less sales for Scotland vs Italy at Workington, after this afternoons test purchase for the Tonga match, £7.50 is extremely reasonable, however a £2.50 'delivery' fee for a walk in purchase is beyond taking the mickey, good luck with that, it's cheaper on the telly.

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