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Sports officiating technology is here — LET’S USE IT

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Since the implementation of technology in sports began in the 1990s, there has always been pushback. 

Some fans want the game to remain traditional, trusting the decisions and integrity of on-field referees. Other fans want technology to assist and, in some cases, make the decisions accurate and the outcomes more authentic. 

The debate between these sides has carried on for far too long.

We need to fully implement technology to ensure the games are not left up to human error. Sports and its fans deserve the best, and technology can give the fans and players the most authentic experience.

Technology officiating looks different in every sport, so let’s analyze the implementations in three major ones. 

World football (soccer): Every week, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) makes decisions that are controversial.

VAR is a group of people who check plays and on-field referee decisions, using replays and even line technology, which uses sensors in the balls to decide the calls in-game. This year, however, it has been very inconsistent, and in some cases, outright incorrect. ESPN puts out an article after each week to go in depth about each VAR decision. 

On Sept. 30, Tottenham hosted Liverpool in the English Premier League. Early in the game, Liverpool’s Luis Diaz scored, but the linesman raised his flag for offsides, ruling the goal out. VAR went and checked the lines for offsides, eventually coming to the conclusion that the call should be overturned and the goal should be given. This ruling never reached the field, and Liverpool lost the game by 1 goal. The league ordered that the VAR room audio be released and confirmed that the on-field decision was incorrect (you can listen to the audio here: VAR Room audio). 

This is a huge problem for football. Both fan bases are upset at the officials and the opposing fans. In my opinion, we need to completely move to technology. Human eyes, especially in football, are flawed, and the use of technology can make sure that calls are correct. On field officials should only be in place to report the decisions of VAR.

In fact, this would have fixed another problem with VAR. This past Monday night, Tottenham hosted Chelsea; the Tottenham officials were once again under fire (shocking, right?), and last Monday night, on-field referees missed 12 calls.  This resulted in VAR checks for each decision. Of the 12 missed calls, 5 were goals that were overturned— 3 for Chelsea and 2 for Spurs. VAR is clearly necessary, as without them, the final score for this game would have been Chelsea 7-3, but the actual final score was 4-1.

Additionally, stats from the League reported that the ball was only in play for 44 of the total 112 minutes played. This does not bode well for the fans, or even the sport. 

Baseball: Reviewing close calls is already implemented in the majors. However, the only calls that are being challenged are safe or out calls. Unfortunately, there is no reviewing or automating for balls and strikes. 

Missed balls and strikes calls are the most missed calls in sports. This regular season, MLB umpires missed over 21,000 calls for balls and strikes. That number seems like a lot, but it was actually the most accurate in recorded history. 

The fact that we trust humans with limited vision to make calls at 100 mph is crazy. Computers never make mistakes. Now we have the technology available to have a computer determine these calls. In fact, Google Statcast is able to create live 3-D models for each pitch.

Automatic strike zones would help both pitchers and players, as commonly, both are angry when an ump misses a call behind the plate. It would also help games go much faster, something that the MLB has been trying to do.

American Football: The NFL currently uses some technology to review close calls. The only problem is that it is limited, and not every missed or incorrect call is even reviewable. This should change; every play should be reviewable.

Doing so would prevent the disastrous missed call in the 2019 NFC championship game. The refs missed a clear-as-day pass interference call, and by rule, the Saints could not challenge it, nor could the officials look at it again.

In addition to reviewing calls, there is another major issue in both the NFL and college football:  Spotting the ball is still being done with metal chains. These are inaccurate, but sometimes are even used to make huge calls that can change games. 

Why does something so official look so unofficial? 

The NFL should take part in what world football has been doing for years. FIFA has goal line technology as well as a sensor in each ball. This helps quickly and officially determine whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line. 

The NFL could and should do the same: sensors in the ball, and goal line tech to determine touchdowns and even first downs.


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About the Contributor
Kade Miller
Kade Miller, Reporter
Kade Miller is a senior this year. Kade was born in American Fork, Utah, and loves to go back anytime he can. Kade is a huge sports fan, mostly soccer and baseball. Kade is loyal to his teams no matter the score. He is planning to serve a 2-year religious mission for his church and attend college in Utah after he graduates.  

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