Post-match reviews are interesting to catch up on; not because experts provide brilliant insights about the game, but also because of the insightful way these experts nitpick over umpiring and refereeing gaffes.
“The umpire should have called this” or “The referee should have given a yellow card” and on and on, the nitpicking goes. One can pick any sport and one will find innumerable experts basking in the glory of their game know-how as they proudly bench themselves in front of the TV in the studio, aided by periodic replays on their television screens that provide innumerably different angles of each and every aspect – minor or major – of the game. Which is why their cutting remarks about the about the calibre of the refereeing and umpiring officials seems petty and quite unchallenged, considering their expertise gains more credibility, thanks to the availability of various visual technological assistance to point out such inadequacies.
To the experts, it all sounds and appears so simple that each error by the officiating authority merits more introspection than the overall quality of the game and the sportsmen playing it. It’s annoying and frustrating, not to mention a little demoralizing especially, when the experts argue about a team’s win or a player’s win being aided by the umpire’s awful decision-making rather than arguing about whether the match was realized to its full potential by both parties contesting it.
But that’s the way it is, no matter how brutal the affectations to one’s professionalism and commitment to a line of duty. And if there aren’t questions raised about umpiring skills because of lack of technical infrastructure on the field, then allegations about certain officials taking bribes and other monetary incentives to purposefully tilt results pollute the very premise of neutrality.
Examples of numerous occasions where sportsmen have become prey to such controversial decision-making – both deliberate and inadvertent – can be quoted over and over again for emphasis, but the actual point of emphasis doesn’t lie in highlighting umpiring mistakes, but in trying to decode how this problem can be resolved to the fullest. Ignoring the latter – a cure for immorality is yet to be found – and focusing on the former, while it’s evident that certain sports have indeed come up with technological assistance to aid umpiring, the penetration of such technology often seems inadequate to cover all of the sport’s officiating drawbacks, which further brings down the credibility aspect of these sporting evolutions.
And in those sports, where the topic of technological assistance remains a touchy subject and whose fate, thus hangs in the balance, arguments – both for and against – rage on with each party making solid claims to justify its stance on the subject.
The EPL match between Chelsea and Manchester United can be referenced the latest example in this never ending drama of technological aid vs. non-technology aided refereeing. Post the match’s culmination, alongside claims that the referee had racially spoken out against two players, the debate for the introduction of goal-line technology in the sports channel’s studio went on for as long as the post-match review session was scheduled, with the experts juggling reasons and arguments about why goal-line technology was the need of the hour. But goal-line technology or not, fact remains that Chelsea’s first defeat in the 2012 season will be remembered more for umpiring inefficiency, rather than Manchester United’s all-round domination on the field.
Which is why, even as the significance of technology in the sporting domain is highlighted, striking a balance between the umpiring decisions and the role of technology becomes necessary. Else, then the application of the technological infrastructure will be confined only to those sporting teams and clubs, who find these implementations most feasible. Not unlike the scenario in international cricket, where the well-tested UDRS system came to be rejected by the BCCI.
Sports is all about transparency in the action happening on the field. And it is perhaps an implicitly known fact that sportsmen do mess up and that at times, they are specifically instructed to do so – if it were to net them points in their favour. But most sports do have a higher authority, which is responsible to see to it that the rampaging act of the sportsmen is curtailed, and the game’s technical details aren’t violated, yet isn’t effectively able to do so. Perhaps it would be better for such experts to not discuss umpiring credibility amongst themselves but present their opinions, supported by facts and statistics to dominant sporting authorities, which can indeed inspire change. Not just for a particular club or team or player, but for the greater good of the sporting arena itself.