GAA missing the point
There is no doubt that Hawk-Eye will be a great spectacle for tv viewers tuning into football and hurling championship games at Croke Park this summer. Anyone familiar with the video ref in rugby knows just what to expect.
Equally, there is no doubt that Specsavers – whatever they are paying the GAA to be associated with the new technology – are getting their money's worth, as its logo whizzes up on screen before the viewer finds out if the disputed shot is a 'Point' or a 'Miss'.
Nor is there any doubt that Hawk-Eye is virtually foolproof. The system will only be used to adjudicate on points but given the margin for error is in the range of eight millimetres, and the width of the posts in Croke Park is approximately 10mm, then a mistake is a real long shot.
All shots to a height of 26 metres can be tracked by Hawk-Eye, which is roughly 13 metres above the actual height of the posts in the stadium. To put that in context, during testing, 700 shots were monitored and only one went above that height.
It's all good, so? Well, not quite.
Essentially, the GAA is saying that if there is a mistake this summer, where a point is waved wide, or a wide is flagged as a point, it will be detected immediately and the wrong will be rectified within 10-12 seconds. So long as it's in Croke Park, the only ground at which Hawk-Eye will be in use over the next two years.
Each year over 20 grounds around the country host a football or hurling championship match. It is not in keeping with the principle of a 'championship' that a different set of protocols are in place in just one of those grounds which means that only those teams which play in it will benefit.
In any other sport where technology is introduced – rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis – it is introduced uniformly to a competition. It would be inconceivable that the technology would be used at some games in a competition, and not in others. Can you imagine the video ref facility only being available in one stadium in the Heineken Cup? Or in one Grand Slam event in tennis? Or in one Ashes Test, but not the others? It wouldn't happen.
Yet this is what the GAA is doing. And at considerable cost, although the Association won't say how much that is.
There was a cheaper option that could have been tried first: make the eight officials (one referee, two linesmen, four umpires and one sideline official) who operate at every game to be more of a team. This would cost next to nothing and, I guarantee it, would significantly reduce the number of mistakes made – in all grounds.