Rugby Union

Is the TMO ruining rugby for the fans?

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It's an exciting time to be alive for Rugby fans: epic Eddie Butler montages, ref cams and ultra HD slow motion replays showing every rib shudder, all serving to immerse us even more in this great game and we owe much of this to the broadcasters.

However, with these greater powers of technology has come a threat to rugby as a spectacle, the threat of the TMO. On the surface, it looks like a superb idea - no longer do we need to worry about a potential forward pass seven phases before a try; a referee can now simply check with the TMO who, armed with a vast array of camera angles, reports back his verdict, allowing the referee to make a more accurate and less controversial decision - case closed. Except it's not that simple.

With changes to the Television Match Official law in 2012, allowing a TMO to also review footage of foul play we have a seen a spike in correct decisions, but at what cost? The crux of the issue is that it is nearly impossible in a professional sporting environment to justify making the wrong decision when the technology to ensure the right decision is made is present, even if making the right decision ruins the game as a spectacle.

This is not the fault of the referees. They know their performances will be scrutinised, careers determined, not by how well the match flows (after all, you can't criticise a ref for making the right decisions) but largely by how good their decision making was.

Consequently, they can be forgiven for erring on the conservative side - after all, what's a couple extra minutes reviewing footage when a match is at stake? Well, judging by the boos resonating round stadiums after the umpteenth slow motion replay and the sighs of relief after a decision is eventually made - fans of both sides are growing sick of the wait.

There's only so much tension that can be built around multiple replays of a borderline late tackle in the middle of the field that ultimately has little bearing on the game, but rugby is now in a situation that prevents a quick decision.

Ironically, many of the pundits who complain that 'decisions take too long' and tell refs to 'get on with it', are, in part, responsible for the very situation they criticise. Whilst their commitment to wanting rugby to be as entertaining as possible is applaudable, the scrutiny officials decisions are put under in the very public post-match analysis is enough to make even Steve Walsh's hair turn grey.

Suddenly, everyone is aware of a slight knock on that led to a try and the ref is publicly reprimanded for not using all the technology available.

Undoubtedly, the technology is available to make rugby a perfectly officiated occasion, but should it be? One of the many joys of this game is its flowing nature tinged with mild controversy - should perfection change this?

What do you think of using the TMO in rugby?

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