At yesterday’s media briefing on how the system will operate — where it was also revealed the sponsored initiative is not cost neutral for the time being — both Pat Daly and Pat Doherty acknowledged it is not unreasonable to believe some men in white will excessively use the safety net provided by the apparatus.
National match officials manager Doherty said it will only become apparent when Hawk-Eye gets up and running from Saturday, June 1 for two of the Leinster SFC quarter-finals at GAA HQ.
“It’s a very fair question and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating,” said Doherty. “We don’t know if they’ll go there, but we don’t believe they will.
“We do think it will be the doubtful ones they will look at, the ones that are above the height of the posts.
“We would be expecting in 99% of cases where the ball is below the height of the posts and over the crossbar that they’re not going to need Hawk-Eye.”
Umpires will indicate making a “box” signal with their hands to indicate to the referee that a request for a Hawk-Eye review is being sought.
While mindful that it is a concern umpires could follow rugby referees in becoming too dependent on video technology to make decisions for them, GAA director of games development and research Pat Daly highlighted just how many accurate score adjudicating decisions are made by referees’ assistants.
“I think it’s worth mentioning as well that above 99% of umpiring decisions are the correct calls. That’s what we’ve seen in games and that’s a commendable figure.
“There is a fear and there is a danger of over-relying on technology but I think umpires will use common sense in this adjustment period.”
Hawk-Eye managing director Steve Carter played down the significance of Hawk-Eye delaying the game in the event of umpires consistently deferring to the system.
“The thing about rugby union is that when they use technology [TV match official] it does slow the game down, whereas with our kind of experience with tennis is that the decision given within seconds gives a focal point, the oohs and aahs, the decision happens and the game moves on.
“Hopefully, if it is used a little bit more than perhaps it should be it wouldn’t slow the game down and could even become something that engages the crowd.”
Doherty confirmed referees won’t make any allowances for the time taken for Hawk-Eye decisions, which should take between 10 to 20 seconds.
In the event of the communications system breaking down between the referee and the review official in the Hawk-Eye booth in the control tower in the Nally Stand, the big screen and/or the sideline official, who will also be miked up, will compensate.
Doherty doesn’t anticipate the advent of Hawk-Eye will see a proliferation of players demanding officials refer to the technology at Croke Park.
“The bottom line is Hawk-Eye will not allow an error to take place so players have to realise that. In other words, if the umpires have reason to call for Hawk-Eye then they’re going to get the correct decision.
“If we have made the incorrect decision then the review official is going to intervene in any case. So players putting pressure on the referee is not going to help or hinder the process.”
Hawk-Eye’s system provides 13-metre virtual posts on top of the regular 13m ones at Croke Park. In their 12 months of experiments, only once has a ball flown higher than 26m. If the ball or sliotar contacts the virtual post, it will be deemed wide.
Carter explained the margin of error in the Sony-owned product is otherwise extremely negligible.
“In tennis, we were independently evaluated by the ITF and the average error was less than three millimetres.
“In soccer, we were tested by Fifa and our accuracy was less than four millimetres.
“To get the accuracy that Gaelic sports need on either side of the posts, you actually only need to be accurate to (the width of) a post, which is about 10 centimetres.
“We would say we’re accurate to about eight millimetres.”
In the event of an umpire not indicating a legitimate score and play going on, the review official will contact the referee who will then stop play, instruct his umpire to signal for a point and recommence the game with a throw-in on the halfway line.
Provision for this playing rule endorsed by Central Council was, according to Daly, passed as part of the Hawk-Eye motion at Congress in March.
Hawk-Eye will be in operation from June 1 in Croke Park on a trial basis for the next two years. It has eight high-speed cameras in GAA HQ triangulating the ball/sliotar position, with four at each end. The system creates virtual posts, doubling the size of the real 13 metre ones to 26m to decipher whether the extremely high shots have passed between the posts. Those shots touching the virtual posts will be adjudged wide.
An umpire is unsure about whether a ball/sliotar has passed between the posts and over the crossbar. What does he do?
Answer: Instead of waving a wide or the white flag, he makes a box signal with his hands towards the referee who also performs the same gesture while speaking to the review official, also a referee, in the Hawk-Eye booth. The Hawk-Eye replay is shown on the big screen and on the broadcasting channel (if any), the referee confirms the decision as does the umpire with the appropriate action.
An umpire waves a shot wide but the referee is not certain he has made the right decision. What does he do?
Answer: The referee calls for a Hawk-Eye review with a “box signal”. The replay is shown on the big screen and the broadcasting channel (if any) and the referee either informs his umpire to overrule his earlier decision or allows play to carry on with a kick-out/puck-out.
A sliotar/ball crosses the bar for a point but the umpire does not indicate one has been scored and play continues (ie, the goalkeeper has unsuccessfully attempted to stop the score but manages to bring the ball back into play). What happens?
Answer: The review official informs the referee that a review is necessary and play is stopped. The referee makes a box signal and the replay is shown and, if televised, broadcasted. The referee confirms Hawk-Eye’s decision, awards point and instructs umpire to signal as such. Play resumes with a throw-in on the halfway line.