At the sharp end of professional sport, the finest margins make all the difference. Records are set, medals are won, and legacies are defined by the tightest of moments – and one flash of brilliance, or the tiniest slip, can change sporting history forever.
Often though, these crucial moments aren’t decided by the athletes themselves. Instead, they’re left in the hands of a referee: one (very brave) official who’s tasked with making all the big calls – and somehow expected to get ALL of those big calls right!
With so much at stake, and mind-boggling amounts of money involved these days, professional sport has followed in the footsteps of many other industries and turned to technology for help – to make things faster, easier and more accurate.
Tennis, for instance, started using infrared systems way back in the early-1980s. Remember those ‘bleeps’ when the ball was out? That was a computer system called Cyclops, which effectively acted as a superhuman line judge. These days, tennis uses Hawk-Eye technology, which tracks the ball all over the court with frightening accuracy. Cricket, rugby union and a bunch of other sports use it too – if there’s ever a dispute, Hawk-Eye clears things up pretty quickly!
Other sports, like football, have been slightly more stubborn. But the success of goal-line technology at the 2014 FIFA World Cup was a game-changer. Since then, pundits, managers, journalists and ex-players have been publicly and loudly championing the introduction of video assisted referees – where an extra official analyses the action on a screen. It looks like trials will be running during next season’s FA Cup, so watch this space…