Volleyball Video Challenge System And Unintended Consequences

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The recently concluded CEV Men’s Champions League Final Four used for the first time in international competition a video review system.  Despite being trumpeted in a press release and endlessly mentioned on the www.laola1.tv coverage, it was never actually explained. Questions such as ‘Who could challenge?’,  ‘When could they challenge?’,  ‘What could they challenge?’ were never addressed.  The commentators were particularly clueless.  They didn’t even seem to be aware of when a challenge was taking place and, for example after the match, made a point of saying they didn’t know how it was being used.  Luckily a participant, Reid Priddy from Kazan, was able to explain it all on this weeks episode of The Net Live.  Apparently the system allowed for the captain to challenge as many line calls (foot and ball) or net touches as he wanted to.  The two catches were that each team was allowed only onefailed challenges per set (meaning after two failed challenges they were not allowed to challenge again in that set), and they were not allowed any block touches (despite the technology existing and being used in the TV coverage).

This led to two unintended, although entirely predictable, consequences, as Priddy explained.  The positive was that because of the limit to the number of challenges allowed, teams were not able to appeal as much.  Part of the theatre of volleyball is that each team appeals each rally in an attempt to sway the officials.  Under this challenge system it is no longer possible.  Players are forced to be ‘honest’ because there is no point being otherwise.  The negative unintended consequence, and the least surprising thing that happened in the volleyball world this week, is that when this happened on match point all 14,000 home spectators knew almost instantly and with certainty that they had been robbed of the last point.  But touched calls couldn’t be challenged and so the decision stood, and so did all 14,000 spectators as they booed and whistled through the presentations.

And so a great idea that has the potential to bring so many positives to the sport and the spectacle ultimately destroys that very spectacle because the administrators lack the courage to fully implement it.  That’s a shame.

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