The AFL's video review system slowed the game down considerably, but was it worth it?
Photo: Getty Images
After Sharrod Wellingham was awarded a goal in the 2011 grand final despite his shot hitting the post, the cries for the use of video assistance to address goal-umpiring errors became deafening. The introduction of a video-assisted score review system this year was a commendable response - but far from perfect.
In theory the review system seemed simple: if the on-field umpires weren't sure of the score, they announced what they thought the score was, then went to the video umpire for review. If the footage was conclusive, they used it; if not, the original decision stood.
The reality in 2012 was often not so clear-cut.
Video reviews helped achieve the correct result many times this year. Alan Toovey's soccered attempt in the Pies v Swans preliminary final was correctly awarded a point after a review showed the ball came off his knee, while blatant behinds given as goals to Stephen Milne and Nick Del Santo against Melbourne were smoothly and quickly over-ruled.
In most cases when calls went upstairs to determine whether the ball hit the post, was touched on the line or marked over the line, the system worked well - when clear footage was available.
Enabling the video umpire to intervene where no review is requested by on-field umpires will prove to be a winner too, though it was used sparingly this season, notably when Andrew Krakouer's snapped goal in this year's Collingwood versus West Coast semi-final was over-ruled, albeit from ambiguous footage.
If Wellingham had kicked his grand-final 'goal' this year, reviewers could have examined it while the ball was relayed back to the centre and intervened.
Unfortunately, using footage for reviews just from television broadcasts was always going to create problems. There were unsuitable camera angles and low-quality footage shot at inadequate frame rates.
We saw Todd Goldstein, James Magner, Brock Mclean and others miss out on goals, as goal umpires' initial decisions or intentions were reversed when other umpires insisted the ball had been touched up-field, despite a lack of concrete video evidence to justify the reversals.
While in review-free years these decisions might have been the same where the boundary or field umpires were certain the ball was touched, this season fans, players and umpires quickly learned the limits of camera technology in determining such contact from any sort of distance.
Then there was the issue of delays to the game. The average time per review was 40 seconds, with about one review requested every two games - probably acceptable to most fans. The almost three minutes it took to determine if Joel Selwood's kick against Collingwood had been touched was unacceptable though, and by the fourth referral in this year's showdown, the fans, players and coaches were becoming quite tetchy.
And umpire positioning is still a problem. Where goal umpires are caught out by quickly snapped goals and wrongly award them as points, the errors can't be fixed if no review is called - there is simply not enough time to intervene before a kick-in.
How to improve it
Install more cameras in better positions, and film at higher frame rates.
Place at least two high-speed cameras in both goalposts: one at ground height, one at a height of about 2-3 metres, facing inward. Unimpeded vision for goal-line decisions is almost guaranteed.
Also valuable would be another camera directly above the posts - out of reach of the highest kicks naturally - to eliminate incorrect calls from umpires out of position. Skycam or some variant might be a solution.
And to keep the game flowing, a time limit of no more than 40 seconds per review must be strictly enforced, with perhaps an automatic cap of one or two reviews per side per match, which are only to be requested by umpires. Allowing team challenges like cricket and tennis will inevitably lead to more delays.
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