Sports: thinking about the “mechanization” of arbitration

Twelve cameras monitor player movements

Semi-automatic offside technology is used at the World Cup in Qatar. Just a momentary offside position, it’s easy to get it wrong. In past world championships, offside situations have often played a decisive role in a team’s victory or defeat. One of the most famous and most discussed cases, for example, in the 1/8 finals of the FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002, in the South Korea-Italy match, the second goal of the Italians was disallowed due to offside. .

In the 2022 World Cup, 12 special cameras installed under the roof of each stadium will monitor the movements of the players from every angle. Official balls are equipped with sensors that determine their exact position, and this information is sent to the video assistant referee. All this information is combined and when a player touches the ball in an offside position, the referee is informed by the video assistant referee thanks to the latest AI advances.

The video assistant referee watches the game on a computer in a special room reserved for FIFA and transmits the information to the referee. (Image from the official website of FIFA)

During transfers, the positions of the attacking and defending players are automatically determined (photo from the official FIFA website).
During transfers, the positions of players on the offensive and defensive sides are determined automatically. (Image from the official website of FIFA)

Using the latest technological advances is nothing new for the FIFA World Cup. In a 2014 match in Brazil, sensor-equipped official balls used goal-line technology to help determine whether the ball had crossed the goal line. At this time, the message “Goal” is immediately displayed on the watch worn by the referee. Video Assisted Refereeing (known as “VAR”), which uses video footage to help the referee decide difficult cases, debuted at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In major sporting events watched around the world, such as the FIFA World Cup, televised footage is instantly broadcast on the Internet, and refereeing errors are increasingly the subject of sharp criticism. The use of such technology in refereeing may be effective in making matches fair.

Video refereeing is used in other Olympic sports, notably by line judges in tennis or badminton, or to decide the winner in judo or wrestling.

Implementation of “robot umpire” in American Little League

Japanese professional baseball has now integrated a “request” system, that is, an instant replay system. Following the example of American Major League Baseball, video was used before 2010 to judge suspected home runs (home runs), then to judge fly balls over the fence or to tie games at first base. 2018 saw the debut of a current appeal system that allowed each team manager to determine the outings and saves at each base.

A similar calling system is used in Major League Baseball, and as of this season, AAA, one of the minor leagues, has introduced a different version with an Automated Ball Hitting System (ABS) that determines the area where the call is possible. We’ve already seen cases where the receiver challenges the ball decision and gets a new hold right after the video referee.

Thanks to the introduction of video aid refereeing, there is certainly less fighting on the pitch than before. But this kind of mechanization of the refereeing of catches and throws raises doubts about the need for a referee. Back to football, if the refereeing of goals and offsides is in fact automated, doesn’t that raise questions about the necessity of the referee being on the pitch?

Video refereeing began with sumo

It may come as a surprise, but video refereeing was first used in sumo tournaments in Japan. In 1969, on the second day of the spring tournament, the fight between to the lack (highest rank among sumo wrestlers) Taiho, ranked fifth among first division wrestlers, and wrestler Toda were considered suspect because they were at the very edge of the fighting ring doho. Chief Justice (gyoji) announced Taiho as the winner, but the judges who discussed it later felt that the referee had made a mistake and awarded the win to Today, ending Taiho’s 45-game winning streak.

But when the fight was shown in slow motion by NHK, Taiho’s victory was unmistakable, and this refereeing error caused a huge uproar. This is how video assistance was used from the next summer tournament.

the gyoji those of the highest rank doho with a short dagger in his belt, the meaning is to show that he is ready to open his belly if he decides wrongly. Thus, sumo is both a very old sport and the first to introduce advanced technology.

A dagger case can be seen in this photo taken on November 18, 2015 in Fukuoka (Jiji).
The sheath of the dagger can be seen in this photo taken on November 18, 2015 in Fukuoka. (sigh)

The introduction of video assistance in sumo did not make it disappear gyoji above doho : the tradition is preserved. But we should be able to introduce detectors inside the ring or equip it with advanced cameras that can analyze the movements of the wrestlers.

If this is not done, it is, of course, due to its existence gyoji important for sports. the gyoji he wears an old suit and a hat on his head eboshi, and holds a fan in his hand, which he raises to the victor. Without his participation, sumo will lose its appeal. In this sport, video assistance is just that.

Humanity of the judge

Much has been made of the baseball umpire who admitted to umpiring during a national high school spring tournament baseball game in Japan this spring. The match was stopped for him to announce on the microphone that he had made a mistake and that he was sorry. Comments on social networks are very positive. Many found these excuses to be spectacular.

Holding a microphone, a baseball umpire admits his mistake and apologizes during a baseball game at Koshien Stadium (Jiji) on March 20, 2022.
Holding a microphone, a baseball umpire admits a mistake and apologizes during a baseball game at Koshien Stadium, March 20, 2022. (sigh)

He is the wrong person. Everyone understands that. No doubt there are many who feel the humanity of this judge who realizes his error without the authoritarian attitude that leads him to affirm that the judge’s verdict is absolute.

Yamaguchi Tomohisa is an amateur baseball umpire. His presence with the players is highly appreciated by them. He strongly encourages defensive players between sets, and is very attentive to them. There are videos showing this on special sites, and one of them has been viewed nearly three million times.

For him, he said, baseball umpires have the role of an orchestra conductor. As in sumo, the referee is not only responsible for officiating, and a machine could hardly replace him, as it would not ensure that the match proceeds in the same manner.

Basketball rules fully express the referee’s mission

The official basketball rules published by the Japan Basketball Federation mention the referee’s role in its preface.

“These rules exist so that the competition takes place with the highest physical and mental strength and respect for each other. »

They continue: “The players are the ones who carry out the spirit of these rules. The referee manages the game fairly and harmoniously, ensures strict application of these rules and gives sound instructions. Everyone should trust him. »

Sport is a human activity, a culture inherited from us. There are rules for fair play between competitors, and for this the presence of referees is essential. Should the rules dare to declare it in full?

In a book that was published more than thirty years ago, in 1991, but retains all its relevance Sociology of sport, The late Nakamura Toshio (a professor at Hiroshima University), one of the first researchers in the field of sports, wrote about the mechanization of refereeing:

“Judge’s mistakes, players’ and coaches’ mistakes in refereeing are inevitable. Perhaps it is impossible to silence the questions and protests of the referee that sometimes lead to violence and lead to a side being called out of the game. But instead of concluding that we should replace the referee with machines or ban questions and protests, we should first ask what the sport is. we should try to think about our choice. »

It seems to me that the questions about our time are about this word “choice”. We live in an age where we are automating ourselves, looking for the convenience that machines bring in everything, not just in sports, and we need to evaluate the choices we have to make in society and in life.

(Banner image: Semi-automatic offside technology used during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. FIFA)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *