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Referee cam: would this help referees?

The referee cam was introduced in a MLS Soccer game last weekend. Rugby also experienced with this new technology. Would it only bring action closer to the tv viewers or are there benefits for the referees as well? Read the story.

The first video footage from the referee’s point of view has been released by the MLS. Check out the video below. What do you think of the footage quality?

The referee during the MLS Game Hilario Grajeda has not yet given a reaction about his experiences. One of the goals of the referee cam is to give viewers better footage from close range. But do referee benefit from it during the match?

For the answer I found some interviews with referees in other sports who already used a similar sytem.

Experiences in rugby matches

Most important pro of the referee camera: “It’s a great innovation for the game. It gives people a great insight in what we see and what we have to rule on”, says rugby referee Chris Pollock on tv.

But in his opinion it’s sometimes quit heavvy when he walks around with a camera on your head. “It weighs about 4 kg’s”, he says. That was kind of heavy with the high temperatures he experienced in Brisbane when he tried it.

But are there cons? Pollock also says that it takes some time to get used to criticism about decisions in the media. With such a camera it might even look silly if a referee misses someting, because tv viewers with same viewing point could clearly see it. “Refereeing can be a tough gig at times,” said the 40-year-old on WalesOnline. “When you get a beating by the media, it takes some time to get used to it. I understand that I deserve to get dragged through it a bit, but it can be disappointing when you think you’ve had a good day apart from one incident. But refereeing rugby is a great career and I love what I do.”

telegraph-logoJournalist Brian Moore from The Telegraph watched the match between Newcastle Falcons and London Scottish in December 2012. He was not so positive. His main points criticism:

  • Nothing was added to the viewing experience
  • Adding a referee cam to the chest only shows what is in front of referee.
  • We already know referees do not have the luxury of time to make decisions or the advantage of slow motion or replays
  • The context of the event influences meaning and a camera cannot know or interpret what an officer is seeing.
  • A referee looking for a particular offence may not see another offence that, to a viewer, may seem more egregious, even though both are looking at exactly the same footage.

Watching the video footage from the new test, some problems have been solved since the December experiment. With the new technique the referee camera is attached on the referee’s head. It moves when a referee looks not straight-forward. Views of the camera might be from closer range, but when the referee is running he shakes his head a bit and it’s not a pleasure to watch it. Kind of wobbly.

The latter point of criticim by Moore will always be an issue. Some fouls are very clear on normal tv footage, but in a particular situation a referee might just watched the other side. The interpretation of what the ref should have seen … it will always be a point of discussion, even with normal camera’s.

The referee camera has to prove itself during the upcoming matches. But even if the camera’s will not be helpful for match officials during the match, it definately will be for analyzing how a football referee performed, says Peter Walton, General Manager of the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), on ProReferee. “This is a great tool for referee education in terms of referee positioning, acceleration, and play development.”


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