Sports Tech Tuesday – Video Refs

Sports Tech Tuesday is a new weekly column on Sport for Business , in partnership with AIB, where we will explore the world of how technology is impacting sport.  How we view, how we play, how we engage.  Today we look at a big week in the world of video refereeing…

When Willie Le Roux dived for the line in Saturday’s Champions’ Cup Quarter Final against Leinster on Saturday most local fans turned away and thought how Leinster would need to build back up the eight point lead they had secured.

He flew with grace after a great interception by Kurtley Beale and it looked good on the BT Sport commentary.

As they turned to look at the replay though there was a collective roar from the crowd as it appeared Le Roux had lost control of the ball.  Ten years ago it would have been given and the game could have turned out very differently.  Perhaps referee Nigel Owens had seen it himself and would have disallowed it or perhaps if the game had been in Coventry rather than Dublin 4 the roar of the crowd would not have alerted him to take a look via the TMO.

This incident came after the first introduction of a similar technological change in international soccer when a video referee assisted in changing two key calls in the friendly international between France and Spain.


At 0-0 Antoine Griezman scored for France but was ruled offside after a quick consultation with the video ref in the stands.  Later in the game when Spain led 1-0 they scored again, had the goal disallowed for offside but then allowed again after another look.

Both were the right call.  Neither would have been made in the instant decision making process which , through the history of sport, has governed  such decisions.

There are those who argue that the TMO in Rugby has become so prevalent that it has a material impact on the flow of the game.

That would be doubly so in soccer if it got to the stage where every bad tackle, every offside decision and every goal we reviewed from multiple angles.  And yet in a world where the technology is now there to allow fans at home see the game in minute detail from every angle including 360 degrees is there any way back.


It is only right that the right call is always made but some of the most iconic moments in sports rich tapestry have come from when that was patently wrong.  Diego Maradona’s Hand of God and Thierry Henry’s close control using digits other than his toes are the two most obvious but sometimes we enjoy a spot of righteous indignation in sport.

In any contest there is a winner and a loser.  It is easier to claim that you have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice than that you have been beaten by a better team.

Should it be that the ooh’s and aah’s of watching multiple replays are the highlight of attending a sports event?

Perhaps the best middle ground is to adopt the path of tennis and NFL where there are options for the wronged to challenge a call but that the number of those challenges is limited.

Teams would have their own video referees looking at every call and radioing down to the bench or in Rugby’s case over to the coach that a challenge was likely to yield the right result.

It moves the top end of sport further than ever from the grassroots and the playing fields of community club and school but with the careers and the money at stake now in sport is there really any way to stop the technology tide?

Willie le Roux wishes he lived in the era of Francois Pienaar on Saturday though Leinster Rugby were very content with the modern age.

Join members of the Sport for Business Community on Wednesday 14th June when we will be taking a close look at the ways in which the changing media landscape will affect Irish sport and those who back it in years to come.

Let us know if you are interested in advance of our launching this event and let’s talk…


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