Wednesday 21 March 2018

AFL struggling to solve score-detection quandary

Martin Breheny, IN MELBOURNE

THEY may be 11,000 miles apart and administering different sports, but the GAA and AFL share a common problem when it comes to accurate score detection.

Both are working on finding practical solutions to what is a complex area where there's a risk that using technology will have the unwelcome side-effect of breaking the flow of a game. However, both organisations recognise the need to eliminate wrong umpiring calls.

Wides which were flagged as points, and vice versa, have caused controversies in Gaelic games over recent years, leading to experiments with the Hawk-Eye ball detection system last spring. Australian Rules has similar difficulties, particularly regarding whether the ball touches a goalpost.

It's a crucial call, carrying a five- point differential (six points for a goal, one point for a 'behind') and has arisen in some very important games, including this year's Grand Final (AFL's All-Ireland final equivalent).

The rule states that if the ball touches the post at any point on its way through, it counts as a 'behind' even if it's inside the upright.

Now the AFL is to look at the use of score detection technology, with their ruling body set to discuss the practicalities next month.

"Across the entire season, we had three errors which were obviously wrong scoring decisions and one of them was in the biggest match of the year," said AFL media relations manager Patrick Keane (right).

The ball flicked the post in this year's Grand Final but a goal, rather than a 'behind', was awarded. In the end, it wasn't a major issue as Geelong easily beat Collingwood, but a five-point differential would be crucial in a close game.

The AFL has had trials with video replays in pre-season competitions over the past few years but hasn't introduced them to the main action because of fears that it would disrupt the continuity of games.

"There has been a serious issue in our game about stop-start. There will be a discussion by our commission (the AFL's governing body) next month about scoring technology," said Keane.

"The key thing for us is that it won't slow down the game. Also, is there a form of technology where you can basically get an answer which is as close to fool-proof as possible?"

Keane said that the AFL had no interest in Hawk-Eye, the system experimented with by the GAA earlier this year. Instead, the Australians are exploring the use of various camera angles to act as the ultimate detection mechanism. Croke Park officials will be closely monitoring the AFL's decision as score detection has become a serious matter for the GAA.

Interestingly, the fear that the use of technology would slow down the game is one of the major concerns for the AFL, who are anxious to have the ball in play for as long as possible.

Keane added: "In our pre-season, we had a couple of breaks and all the concern was about how long they were taking. In one instance, it took 60 or 70 seconds. That has been behind the reticence of our commission."

The AFL is also looking at another area that should be of interest to the GAA in an era when massed defences are squeezing the fluidity out of Gaelic football. There are similar concerns in Australian Rules, prompting the AFL to experiment with an incentive system for long-range scores.

In pre-season games, they have increased the value of a goal (ball between the main posts) from six to nine points if the kick is from outside 50 metres. Now, they plan to increase it further to 12 points to see if it encourages more long-range attempts.

It's an interesting idea, one that could be copied by the GAA by awarding two points for a long-range scoring kick.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport