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Let the participants decide!

By Hugh Brown - posted Friday, 15 September 2000

The Grand Finals of the major winter sports in this country were resolved as they were meant to be – without the aid of off-field electronic gimmickry.

Although the technology was available, and occasionally called upon, the teams that won were the teams who had been obviously the best all year (the Broncos and Essendon) and the team that had learned from hard experience how to win a final and had the better of the match (Canterbury). This is a good thing.

So it was more than a little depressing to discover that this summer’s cricket will be further soured by that most gratingly unsatisfying of sporting developments – artificially enhanced decision-making.


It appears that German company Siemens is going to adapt some missile-tracking technology to assist officials in deciding whether a batsman should be declared out leg-before-wicket.

Apart from the obvious marketing edge of using missile-tracking devices to follow the efforts of fast bowlers (I can hear the ads already), I fail to see what this adds to the enjoyment of the game.

It may well reduce the number of debatable decisions during the match, but at what cost to the sporting public’s patience and peace of mind?

Experience, particularly in Rugby League, has shown that technology is far from perfect and worse than ineptitude. There remain calls that, based on the electronically enhanced evidence, are still too close to call. Other situations are such that the video evidence is useless. There have also been, sad to say, decisions made during a game that have, on later review of the evidence, been deemed incorrect.

That the debatable awarding or not of a try, touchdown, dismissal or goal should change the outcome of a match is not new. Neither is the timeless process of gathering around the urn at lunch on Monday, spewing about the blind referee and pontificating on how he should have got it right. This is the nature of fandom.

But the agony is made worse when the so-called advances did not help the officials arrive at the correct decision. If the referee/umpire has nothing but his (and his colleagues’) eyes to help him, it’s understandable that he might make an error, but when he has the benefit of expensive technology that cannot help him, it appears nothing but a frustrating waste.


Having to sit through endless ultimately-inconclusive video replays of the event is one of the more nail-biting (as opposed to suspenseful) pastimes of the sports fan. It’s even worse when the electronic adjudicator provides an obviously incorrect ruling through the process of pressing the wrong button.

When I was growing up and learning to enjoy competitive sport there were two important sayings I learned: "Play the whistle" and "What goes around comes around" (the latter not necessarily relating to the fortunes of the game).

The importance of these was that as long as we kept playing, abided by the fortunes of the match and did our best, we would most likely win the games and/or competitions in which we were the better team. This proved to be the case.

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About the Author

Hugh Brown is a PhD candidate in the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT and teaches communication at the University of Queensland and QUT. He was editor of On Line Opinion from June 2000 until August 2004 and has a degree in journalism from the University of Queensland, for which he was awarded a University Medal. Before joining On Line Opinion he was editor of the now-defunct Tr@cks e-zine, based in Brisbane, and inaugural student editor of The Queensland Independent. He has also freelanced for a variety of publications.

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