Nick Matthew column: Where my sport still needs to embrace technology more

Rugby League referee James Child
Rugby League referee James Child

Technology is improving all sports.

Rugby Union, rugby league, tennis, cricket and, to a lesser extent, football use it. They are embracing technology a lot more for key decisions.

Every sport is looking for the balance of adding to the spectacle and getting a higher percentage of calls correct without ruining the natural rhythm of the game.

Whenever I’ve gone to watch rugby league, it never seems to disrupt the flow of the contest. It is a very fast paced sport and, if there is any doubt over a try or a forward pass, they use the video replay which adds to the suspense. It gets the crowd going.

In squash, we have been using video replays for key lets and stroke decisions. That has been in place for a number of years now and has definitely improved the consistency of decisions.

We had an issue to start with when the fourth official in the video box was almost reluctant to over-rule their colleagues as it seemed they didn’t want to appear like they were undermining their friend.

But it has been a complete success once that was ironed out and fourth officials realised they were there not to undermine but to aid the fairness of the game and the spectacle.

It has also cut out that little bit of back chat between the players and the referees. The players can just go straight away to the review.

The difficulty is that much like a penalty decision in football, it is still not black in white under review. It still comes down to someone’s opinion, although they can watch it from a few different angles and in slow motion to assess it so they can get the decision more accurately.

What I would like to come into the sport, now that we have got the technology, is reviews to pick up outs, downs and double bounces like they do in tennis. Players should be given one or two challenges per game and have to call it immediately rather than hedging your bets after a long rally.

The game is so fast at world level in squash. Sometimes you genuinely don’t know on court, when you are in the heat of the battle, if the ball has bounced twice. Quite often the referees are sitting in among the crowd so haven’t got the best view.

There are times when players aren’t sure themselves whether the ball has bounced twice or hit a shot that’s gone out so technology would eliminate any of that doubt.

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