FIFA President Sepp Blatter has always claimed that the reason his organization has not introduced video replay technology to assist referees and ensure that less mistakes are made that may influence the result of matches, is that it cannot be used at all levels of the game. An unpopular reasoning with some, but just the same it is one that makes some sense.
At the current Sultan Azlan Shah Cup international hockey event there is no video referral for the umpires or players. This flies in the face of the fact that such technology is available at all major international tournaments.
The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is in its 32nd year of competition and this is the 24th edition. It is the number one invitational international hockey tournament, and one where many of the top teams come to prepare for major tournaments, such as the upcoming World League semi-finals. So it would be beneficial to the players and coaches if video referral were available. It would also help the up and coming umpires to become used to dealing with requests for referrals.
What makes the decision not to use such technology so baffling is that video referral was available in the local Malaysian Hockey League, a professional Hockey League. Of course Hockey could never hope to implement video referral at the lower levels of the game, but it adds a new dimension at the highest level, and also educates fans and young players in regards to the rules and their interpretation.
Sport in its essence is at its best when it is kept simple. on and off the pitch. Sadly many sports are complicating issues in the name of development and most will not realize the error of their ways until a generation of players has been lost.
A modern trend by way of ‘development’ is to allocate players points dependent on age, experience, loyalty to their club, whether they came through the junior set up etcetera. As a result, now rather than a coach managing the talent at his disposal, and helping develop that talent at the right time, he has to worry about his mathematical skills and continually calculate how many points he has on the field at one time. Many qualified coaches are beginning to question their involvement in the various sports.
Development leagues are a good thing, but all sport needs strong competitive leagues as the focal point. Combining both is a decision that will have a long lasting impact on the competitions and the players. This has been proven in the past.
Owen Nkumane was a rugby player promoted to the Springbok side ahead of his time, not to meet an age quota, but a racial one. He has always said he was not ready for the step up, and that it ended up destroying his career. Promoting young players before they are ready to meet a quota will have the same effect.
Just as video referral cannot be administered at all levels of any game, so too are many other rules that administrators at amateur and semi-professional levels have tried to enforce that have been applied successfully at the highest level.
An example in Australia is a salary cap at NPL/State League level. Clubs should live or die by their own management of their accounts and business.
Why would you introduce a rule that you have no intention or ability to administer, and do not have the courage to act on a team breaking that rule?
Many people in many sports are becoming more and more frustrated and disenchanted at such management and weak leadership.
Let us face facts international sport, top-flight professional sport, semi-professional sport and amateur and social sport are all very different beasts, all with different needs and challenges. A homogenous approach is never going to work. Video referral works at the highest level, it is impractical at the lower levels, just as many other rules are. To try and implement rules across all levels is simply foolhardy.
Sport is, and always should be, about participation, striving for excellence and crucially, enjoyment. The minute you complicate it by too much administration, it loses its appeal. Sadly for many this is happening across the globe. Sport at all levels now has become about business, and business-models. That is indeed sad, as the majority of sport is about so much more.