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How should referees use technology in football?

09 July 2010

As World Cup 2010 looks set to be the tipping point for the use of technology in football a Cardiff University expert argues it’s justice not accuracy that’s at stake.

Professor Harry Collins, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, looks at the impact of technology on sports umpiring and refereeing in a forthcoming paper in The Journal of the Philosophy of Sport.

Professor Collins argues that the introduction of new technology should be done in such a way as to increase the justice of decisions and that this is best done with a restrained use of new technology. He writes that some sports decision aids can be less accurate than they appear, leading to false transparency.

Professor Collins said: "In the case of the 2010 World Cup it’s especially important to disentangle the question of exactness and the question of justice. The increasingly vocal calls for the introduction of `goal-line technology’ often confuse the two.

"To get rid of transparent injustice all that is necessary is to give referees direct or indirect access to the television replays that the viewer sees and allow them to use these in their decision-making so as to avoid obvious mistakes. There is no need to try to find technology that will define the `exact’ position of the ball. In rare cases television replays will not be able to determine whether the whole of the ball crossed the line or not – advanced technology could resolve some but not all of such cases but there is no need for it. In such cases, referees, using TV replays, can be seen to be doing their best, especially if backed up with a `benefit of the doubt’ rule such as, `if in irresolvable doubt, it is a goal’."

Professor Collins concludes that technology should be used to avoid errors which are obvious to all; but argues that the referee’s judgement must remain paramount.

Previous research by Professor Collins and colleagues in the School of Social Sciences has questioned the accuracy of Hawk-Eye and similar line-calling technologies arguing such devices could cause viewers to overestimate the ability of technological devices to resolve disagreements.

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About Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk

For further information, please contact:

Professor Harry Collins

School of Social Sciences

Cardiff University

Tel: (0)29 208 74047

Email: CollinsHM@cardiff.ac.uk

Emma Darling

Public Relations Office,

Cardiff University.

Tel: 029 2087 4499

e-mail: DarlingEL@cardiff.ac.uk