The Ethics Of Using Technology To Officiate Professional Sport – Sanity

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In my opinion over the last 25 years or so volleyball has been the most forward thinking and innovative sport in the world.  Events such as World League, World Grand Prix and Beach Volleyball World Tour were created and have improved the quality and popularity of volleyball throughout the world as rule changes such as rally point scoring and the libero have made the game more attractive.  Volleyball has been so successful in these areas that other sports are even attempting to copy its model in some way.  Now the President of FIVB, Jizhong Wei, has committed the FIVB to create a system for using video technology to help officiate volleyball in time for the next Olympics.  That in itself is not new, and I have written about it before, but the thing that most warms my heart is his reasoning.

“We have to serve the players, not to control them all the time, because the athletes undertook four years of scientific and hard training and we cannot allow one mistake from the judge or referee to make the difference. At the FIVB we recognise our responsibility.”

This is the first time I have heard anyone in this discussion talk about the issue from the perspective of fairness to the competitors and respect for the preparation they undertake and is something of a contrast to the Luddite rantings of people like UEFA’s Michel Platini.



  1. I wonder if this is a reaction to the final ball in the mens beach final. I think in beaches case it would make a big difference if the refs were more willing to check ball marks, as they do in clay court tennis.


    1. Judging by the wording of the press release (100kmh serves etc) I would guess it was more a response to seeing the HD slomo videos at the indoor arena and seeing exactly how many errors were made.
      Interesting story about that last beach point. The Germans were on TV on Saturday night and explained that their stumbling, uncoordinated ‘celebration’ after the last point, was actually Reckermann trying to push Brink over to the ball mark so nobody would be able look at it.


  2. Mark, you know my thoughts on this. To suggest that football leaders are Luddites is a little off the mark. Certainly, football hasn’t lost any of its following or appeal over the last 20yrs. Players still love playing it. There are very plausible reasons for not introducing technology at every opportunity.There are traditions, expectations, the capacity to supply the technology further and further down the playing standards…. In some instance (eg cricket) its almost a grab to engage spectators/viewers who are beginning to lose interest in the sport itself. A little sad really.
    Sport is not really “owned” by the competitors, its the fan base/public that dictates terms. So, with the groundswell of public opinion in football around “goal line” technology (ie, goals being disallowed when the ball had crossed the line), FIFA has (finally some might say) decided to introduce the technology. It is very easy to argue for the introduction of technology, but to do so at the speed with which it (technology) is changing, needs to be well considered and thought through.


    1. Sport is not owned by anyone – neither participants nor followers and least of all administrators. My point in the post is that until this statement administrators have never addressed the affect on participants who are the ones who invest themselves and make personal sacrifices to compete.
      In general, my point is that technology exists that will make the outcome of sporting events fairer. Administrators of sports have a moral responsibility (the same as administrators in every other field) to ensure that those outcomes are as fair as possible. Right now, they are not.
      In no other field would it be acceptable to reject readily available evidence that can prove an outcome. It would be considered immoral.


  3. My point about the public owning sports is that without them, their interest and, therefore, their money, sport doesn’t exist. Regardless, to raise the issue of morality within the sporting context is, in the very least, interesting. Sports, especially its administration, is hardly an example of a moral compass we should follow.
    Regarding the comments by the FIVB president, I can’t help but think that its just a motherhood statement designed to placate and/or distract. It is a marked deviation from how VB is/has been run… To suggest that the introduction of technology, and the president’s words, will compensate for the corrupt practices that no doubt continue to exist in various parts of the VB world, would be naive. Nepotism, back handers, paying tournament organisers to gain favourable draws or places in tournaments, jobs for the boys…its standard fair and this is a way of controlling players and determining their careers, whether its Brazil, Italy, Germany or Australia.


  4. Volleyball is a very specific sport, where good visibility of the ball in an every moment and place is a crucial factor to follow this game. Unfortunately the current FIVB color combination balls have a poor visibility and recognizability especially for Internet/TV viewers but also for the audience. FIVB and other v. bodies should deal at last with this pressing issue as a top priority… This issue have also an negative impact on access of this sport into TVs, and thus to draw strong sponsors. In many countries this nice sport only survives.

    These balls function similar as a rotated color wheel, or the Newton disc, see :
    Balls optically disappear for Internet/TV viewers when are quick and rotate/spin – i.e. at jump serves, spikes, block off. They will appear again only when slow down. There are also other visual effects which influence a perception of the ball, as blurring etc… Such visual effects, illusions have a negative impact on sight of viewers…
    Visibility qualities of the balls depends on a main color, or combination of colors, but also on pattern or strips if they are used. The important characteristic is a good contrast from surroundings .. Do they have?

    Taken into account the compromise and interests of Internet/TV viewers, players, referees, audience the most suitable ball with a pattern seems to be :

    On market there are however several producers which offer suitable balls with or without pattern… To deal with a modern technology and to ignore the basic technical equipment from side of pertinent bodies, but also experts does not seem to be reasonable…


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