Friday, March 1, 2024

Referees need help with long-distance vision

Peter Barker waits for the Video Referee at Canary Wharf

Here’s my response to Steve Cubbins’ article on referees in his new Blog On The Tyne, headlined How Many Referees Is Enough?

Some great points mentioned above. To fill in a few of the gaps, let’s start with the seating position of the central referee(s).
In years gone by, referees would have occupied the central position looking down over a cement court (as many still do at local league level).
Then came glass-backed courts, and a new facility was provided for referees to climb a ladder to occupy two seats in roughly the same position, directly above the back wall.
Then came the all-glass showcourts and the referees were obviously in the way of the cameras filming from behind the back wall.
This is the primary source of the seismic change in refereeing, and the direct cause of major problems affecting the game.
The officials were moved back ten or more rows into the audience. Sure, they have a prime view of the court, but they are such a long way from the front wall that calling balls up or down at the front of the court, or checking possible double bounces in that area, becomes nigh on impossible.
Take this example from the Canary Wharf Classic. Last year, in that epic semi-final between Nick Matthew and James Willstrop,
James reacted a little late to a drop shot from Nick but lunged forward and got himself out of trouble with a lob.
Unfortunately, the referees, seated just below the VIP gallery, called the ball down. I was standing by the front of the court and saw the incident clearly. The ball was good. Every other spectator seated in that vicinity could also see it was good.
The obvious solution is to have a tin judge either side of the front wall who can also adjudicate or advise on pick-ups at the front of the court that are impossible to call by the main officials who are too far away to have a clear view of these incidents.
I am a big supporter of the video referee process and have written many articles supporting this idea.
It clearly needs fine-tuning, and we need to embrace the technology that will help officials decide on whether a ball is up or down, or whether a player has hit a ball after more than one bounce.
The biggest measure of assistance to this whole process would be the absolute honesty of all PSA members in calling their own shots up or down.
Some do, many don’t.
I know which ones I like the best.

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