Technology in sports: How far is too far?

Cueto denied a try by the TMO in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final. (©GettyImages)

For years football stood firm in its stance that the game did not need technology as counterparts cricket, tennis and rugby persevered with a relentless desire to get decisions right.

However, in the summer of 2013, the FA announced they would be using Hawk-Eye to clear up contentions goal line decisions in the Premier League. Now as sport seems destined to embrace technology to its fullest we must ask the question, how far is too far?

Firstly when discussing technology in sport it is vital to note that it is not 100% accurate and decisions can still be contentious. Try telling an England rugby fan that Mark Cueto didn't score a try in the World Cup final against South Africa. Try telling a batsman who swears he didn't nick a ball that he's out because 'hotspot' says so. The point is, technology or not, sport will always have its controversies.

The most famous and to-date most universally successful form of technology in sport is undoubtedly Hawk-Eye. The system tracks the position of the ball in football, tennis and cricket and is accurate to within five millimeters.

Hawk-Eye has been an unequivocal success with the only real complaints being that it takes away from the natural drama of the game. Roger Federer is a public opponent of the system, stating: "What I like without Hawk-Eye is just the players challenging the umpires more often."

It is true that sport loses some of its edge as the margin for error disappears and we may never see another 'you cannot be serious' moment in the mold of John McEnroe. But surely getting decisions correct holds sway over the desire to witness emotional outbursts of rage.

Perhaps the clearest sign of sport and technology becoming intertwined is the formerly stoic stance of FIFA not to use technology changing. Goal line technology will be used at the 2014 Brazil World Cup and they will also employ a vanishing spray to measure out 10 yards at free-kicks.

The issue with technology in sport as it stands is that much of it is still subject to human error and personal opinion. Almost every week there is a decision in the Premier League that causes uproar and at the same time splits opinion.

With terms such as 'there was contact' making the line between foul and dive far more blurred, the job of the television match official (TMO) in football would be a truly thankless task.

Football of course does not lend itself to long pauses in the same way as rugby with its system of pausing the clock for long delays and cricket, a sport which is played at a far slower pace. If football was to embrace video technology it would surely have to take on rugby's approach of stopping the clock every time a decision was needed to be made or risk running into absurd lengths of injury time.

This is something that would undoubtedly detract from the free flowing nature of the game and this is something that must be avoided.

Technology in sport appears to have reached a tipping point with the advantages at the moment far out-weighing the disadvantages and it seems that the say of technology in sport is only going to increase.

It is vital that the governing bodies strike a balance between the spontaneous joy of live sport and making sure that the right decisions are made.

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