Technology is defying human abilities, it is becoming more precise, it is reaching areas and heights that are unattainable for humans and are effortlessly picking up on human error. The future and culture of sport are becoming technologically advanced and digitised. Now more than ever have we seen the heightened inclusion of digital technology in sporting arenas and off field.
Technologies such as the video-referee, the hawk-eye, playback and many more have rapidly increased decision making, precision and ‘fairness’ throughout sport. The use of such technologies has been greatly underestimated and their use has been highly disputed. The involvement of said technologies will continue to provoke a debate amongst professionals in the industry and researchers. However, as a result of an evolving ‘digitised’ society, it does not seem that the digital influence will disappear anytime soon. So, let us explore some of the many technologies used throughout sport.
Athletes over the years have become progressively stronger, faster and smarter. The momentum and speed of games have greatly increased as a result of this, and often scores have been decided based on a difference of a millimetre. With the introduction of technology, many would argue that the degree of difference and efficiency has increased with the reliance on officiating technologies. One, in particular, is the Hawk-Eye.
Hawk-eye technology has been a game changer, mostly seen in sports such as tennis, cricket, rugby and volleyball.
The hawk-eye is a leading sports innovation technology, which tracks the trajectory of an object or individual in the field of play. It gives a virtual understanding of the distance and angle of where the ball travels, it allows for the virtual path of the ball once the play has been recorded and generated which gives the officials and audience a guided bath of the ball.
The technology is made up of six high-speed vision-processing cameras, accompanied with two broadcast cameras. Once the field of play is completed, each camera records and combines to form a virtual 3D positioning of the ball. This 3D vision shows the delivery of the ball, the bounce and impact, which measure the direction, speed, swing, and dip of the delivery from players.
The precision and accuracy the hawk-eye delivers, has been a game changer in multiple instances. It has awarded players the right to challenge the umpire/referee and provided an alternative means of decision-making. Hawk-eye technology is said to be one of the main forms of sporting technology that has produced accurate decisions.
However, like many forms of technology, we cannot always rely on its ability to perform at all times. The hawk-eye is known for giving a marginal error in tennis of 3.6mm while also being affected by bugs.
In 2016, cricket’s DRS system was under fire following a failure in the hawk-eye technology during Australia’s win over South Africa.
Video footage of the controversial moments revealed a huge failure from the hawk-eye ball-tracking path-predictor.
As a result of this incident, cricket fans doubted the ongoing use of this technology, not shying away from the fact the technology could have only been accurate within 5mm when used.
In response to this backlash, researcher Dr Hawkins said: “the technology has only made four inaccurate rulings since an upgraded version of the technology was introduced eight years ago”. While Hawkins has provided proof of the hawk-eyes accuracy, the debate still prevails. Will there ever come a time where technology will be deemed as ‘100% stable’? Only time and mechanics will tell….
On a different level of sport, goal-line technology has been another game changer in the sporting world.
Goal-line technology (GLT) was approved for use in soccer in 2012 by The International Football Association Board (IFAB). This technology no longer places a sole reliance on the referee to judge a goal, rather the technology now judges and assess if the ball has or has not crossed the line.
To explain GLT in a nutshell, below is a video created by FIFA:
If you are a football fan, you would agree that to correctly judge a goal based on these is near impossible without the inclusion of GLT.
GLT much like the hawk-eye technology has been said to have saved and changed the game in many instances. Analysing results from some of the most important games in the football world, there have been many affected by goals that were wrongly awarded and ruled out.
Similar to hawk-eye technology, there has been room for unwanted error. An article from Bein Sports shows the first failure of GLT, in October 2017. During a game between Rennes and Caen in Ligue, GTL failed and now has become a step in football history.
Check it out here: http://www.beinsports.com/my/football/video/the-first-failure-of-the-goal-line-technology/667458
It is clear; the involvement of technology in sports has called for drastic changes in refereeing. However, this technology is not only inclusive on the field. Rather its involvement off the field is levelling the playing field.
Doping in sport has been seen as a trend throughout sporting history, its earliest findings have been dated back to 776 BC. Where history shows the Ancient Greeks were using performance-enhancing drugs during the original Olympic games.
Since these times, drug use in the sporting industry began to rapidly grow, and as a result of the inclined deaths that were occurring the International Olympic Committee was urged to set up a Medical Commission in 1967 which banned the use of drugs and performance enhancement. Small-scale testing began during the 1968 Mexico Olympics, followed by full-scale testing which took place at the next Olympic Games held in Munich of 1972. One of the biggest drug scandals in the sporting industry can be recognised when examining the Russian Olympics, a conspiracy that emerged during the 2014 Social Olympics.
Since these events, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has enforced stricter rules and regulations that have been implemented. During 2016 WADA granted $224,437 to the University of South Australia and the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence in Bio-Nano Science to change the way testing is done.
This is how doping testing is conducted:
However, for years the processes of drug testing across Olympic Games has proven to be inaccurate and unreliable. With the coming of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, we saw such technology fail.
While the enforcement of WADA and the guiding technologies have been effective. Further investigations continue to roll out surrounding the issue of doping in the sporting industry.
The analysis of the hawk-eye, goal-line technology and anti-doping technology shows how the sporting industry is becoming digitised as we progress into a future culture. While such technologies are greatly benefitting the accuracy, fairness and efficiency, we are still seeing the failures and inaccuracy that is occurring. The question still continues on, ‘will technology on and off the sporting field better the sport, or will we forever stand in a grey area between effectiveness and failure?’