Argentina FIH Champions Trophy – Day 2 – China v Japan
(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)
Hockey has forged a reputation as a sport which is not afraid to push the boundaries. In recent years, big changes have been introduced which have only served to improve the game. The Self Pass rule has made one of the fastest team sports in the world even faster, while the Green Card two minute suspension has proven to be another huge success in aiding on-field discipline.
Another pioneering move has been Hockey’s desire to trial and test the use of team Video Umpire referrals at top level international events when many other sports have for one reason or another decided against it. The art of Video Umpiring is still developing, but players, coaches and officials seem to be unified about its potential and the importance it will play in the future of the sport.
The Video Umpire referral system is currently being used at the Argentina FIH Champions Trophy, which is taking place in Rosario. During the first three days of the competition, the crowd witnessed the video umpire being called into action on 20 occasions in 12 matches, and many more referrals are sure to follow throughout the rest of the tournament.
So, what exactly is the Video Umpire referral system? Here is a brief explanation.
There are two kinds of Video Umpire referrals which may be made - the “Umpire referral” and the “team referral”.
For Umpire referrals, the only persons who can refer decisions to the Video Umpire are the match Umpires. No one else, including the Video Umpire or Officials at the Technical Table, can stop the match to request a referral.
The match umpires may refer decisions to the Video Umpire when they are not convinced that they have taken, or are able to take, the correct decision relating to the awarding or disallowing of a goal. Renee Cohen, one of the Umpires Manager at the Argentina FIH Champions Trophy, said: “The most important thing is to get the correct decision. The Video Umpire is very important for the match umpire as it allows the chance to double-check whether she has made the right decision about the goal. There is nothing worse than awarding or disallowing a goal incorrectly. It’s good for hockey and helpful to the game.”
Team referrals allow a wider range of referral possibilities than for those that the Umpire can ask for, but are restricted to decisions within the 23 metres area relating to the award or non-award of goals, penalty corners and penalty strokes. Netherlands’ team-captain Maartje Paumen likes the idea of the team referral: “I think it is good. For example we used our team referral in our match against Japan. The match umpire had awarded a penalty stroke but we were convinced that it was a penalty corner instead of a stroke. The video umpire confirmed that it was a penalty corner, which shows that the video footage is an advantage for the game.”
Each team is allowed one “team referral” during the match, which includes any periods of extra time, should they be played. However, no team referrals are allowed during any shoot-out competitions. Any team player on the pitch at the time of the incident can request a team referral.
The referring team retains its right of referral in the event that a team referral is upheld, or that no decision is possible. This latter will generally be as a result of not having the correct replays available, the ball not being in shot in the replays or the footage being of insufficient quality to permit a decision.
Argentina’s seven times FIH Player of the Year Luciana Aymar agreed: “The new system to ask the umpire why she has made a particular decision as well as the possibility for the umpires to take a referral is really interesting. I think it’s very useful, although it takes more time when they are also looking for other breaches of the Rules. In my opinion it is an advantage and it is fairer for all the players.”
German coach Michael Behrmann is also a fan of the new system. “It’s an advantage to ask the match umpire why she has blown the whistle. Then you can think if you agree with her decision or not which is an advantage for the game. I think hockey is already on a good thing with the introduction of the video footage although there are always things which can be improved. Sometimes I wish the process of taking the decision could be done faster as the players can lose concentration and get cold when they have to wait up to two minutes.”
Great Britain coach Danny Kerry was also quick to mention ways in which Video Umpiring could be improved, echoing Behrmann’s comments regarding the speed of the process. “I think it is taking too long for the decision to come. I think the idea is right because we want to get the right decision but at the moment I don’t think we have the process right. Coaches and rule-makers should get together to discuss it.”
Whilst not perfect yet, it is very likely that the Video Umpire will play a major role in the sport for many years to come.