What should the future of the video referee be?

Like it or not, video assisted officiating is a part of modern sport. We see it in football, cricket and of course rugby league. There’s no escaping it’s presence in Super League, it’s not going anywhere any time soon. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t amend it so it’s used as effectively as possible. But what would that look like? How should the video referee be used moving forward?

To understand where we need to go with the system, it’s best to look back on where we’ve been. For some years we’ve used a system in which the on-field official gives his verdict before the video referee is tasked with finding sufficient evidence to overturn the ruling. I remember when this change came in, most people were excited – after all it seemed to work in Australia – however, I was disappointed. I always liked the old way of doing things. A try was given when the referee was sure, when he wasn’t it was handed upstairs and the video ref had the simple job of looking at the footage and making a decision. If he couldn’t arrive at one the words benefit of the doubt would appear.

This system for me was effective. It limited the number of incorrect decisions, was quick but, most importantly, it was fair. Too many times we’ve seen tries awarded when they probably shouldn’t be because the camera angles don’t provide adequate evidence to overturn the on field decision. Imagine if that happened in the Grand Final? There’d be uproar.

There were drawbacks to the old system of course, but there is with any system. Nonetheless, the question remains, should we revert back to the old way of doing things? I’ve seen plenty of people suggest this change and even I myself would like to see it return. After all, I always thought that system added to the drama. Plenty of big moments were actually adorned by the video referee back in the day whereas nowadays the common consensus is that the video referee actually taints the biggest moments in our sport.

However, despite all of this, there may be an even better way of doing things. If we turn to Australia, the current system they use is quick, easy and ensures the right decision is reached every time often in a matter of seconds thanks to the fact the referee simply makes a decision whilst the video referee checks it in the background and should they disagree they’ll overturn it with no need for ‘sufficient evidence’. This makes for a quicker system and means there’s no controversy, no waiting around, no disrupting of historic moments and ultimately that’s what officiating should try and achieve: a state in which you don’t notice them. Referees are at their best when they don’t become the centre of attention and that should be true of the video referee as well. Thus, perhaps the solution to our problem lies in Australia.

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