Referees in no rush for video technology


THE USE of either a television match official or goal-line technology is still some way off in Gaelic games despite the glaring and costly refereeing error in Sunday’s Leinster football final.

National Referees Committee chairman Mick Curley says there is no appetite among referees to introduce such technology, and even if there was, the limitations of it would still be significant.

Curley also defended the referee’s options in consulting with their umpires and also the right of the referee to select their own umpires – highlighting the fact all umpires are subject to similarly rigorous training and such mistakes are relatively scarce.

“One of the problems with video technology is deciding where it begins and ends,” says Curley. “It’s very hard to decide on that. Is it only going to be introduced for goal-line situations? Because in Gaelic football and hurling, a decision made out the field can be just as crucial, especially if a score comes from it.

“And is it only going to be for crucial scores? In any closely contested game, like Sunday, every score is crucial, whether it happens in the last minute or 10 minutes into the second half. And in fairness, I’ve met referees countless times over the last three years, and many times prior to that as a referee myself, and the issue never came up, or was even discussed. No referee has ever said to me ‘look, we should have a camera on the goal, or here or there’.”

These are some of the reasons Fifa have also resisted introducing video technology in soccer, and in rugby, the use of the television match official – known as the TMO – is extremely constrained. Intervention only intrudes when requested by the referee.

A proposal to GAA Congress last April, from Tipperary, called for video referees to be appointed from senior provincial finals up to All-Ireland finals, although this was withdrawn, pending assessment by the Central Competitions Control Committee.

Sunday’s events in Croke Park may well prompt re-examination of that proposal, but in the meantime Curley admitted human error would always be part of the game – and the fact Tyrone referee Martin Sludden admitted his error in his report simply reflects that.

“In fairness, the number of good decisions made by referees and umpires far outweighs the bad ones,” says Curley. “They do get it right most of the time. Of course we don’t want to get anything wrong, but human error is part of sport, as everyone knows. It’s going to happen. Not just to umpires and referees.”

Much of Louth’s disgust at Meath’s illegal goal being allowed is that Sludden didn’t appear to properly consult his umpires, although Curley says there is no strict procedure: “The facility is there for consultation with one or both umpires. The referee can decide on that. He also has the facility to overrule one or both of them.”

Certain claims that umpires aren’t being trained and monitored as well as referees was also rejected by Curley: “There is a training course for umpires, and it’s as comprehensive as it can possibly be. It covers all the rules, and there’s a fitness element as well. The very fact the course is there shows we do see the need for ongoing training of umpires. And I don’t see any problem with the referees choosing their umpires, no.”

The GAA this year introduced new guidelines to improve the standard of refereeing, including the fact intercounty referees must now retire at age 50 – yet this doesn’t apply to umpires, nor are there any plans to start applying it.

Sludden’s decision to admit in his referee’s report he was wrong in awarding the goal does, says Curley, merely follow procedure, but under the rules the referee’s report is final: “If he’s recognised a mistake, or recognised something was wrong, that can go into his report,” says Curley. So does that mean there should be a replay? “I would rather not comment on that. I don’t want to pre-empt something that may or may not happen.

“But I have an awful lot of sympathy for Martin. I know it was through no deliberate fault of his own. I know for a fact, as we all do, he made a quick call, in good faith.”