The Anatomy Of A Brain Fart

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Or How To Cheat The Video Challenge System

A few days ago I wrote about the CEV Champions League Final Four and commented on a specific decision made using the Video Challenge System.  To summarise, Tetyukhin spiked a ball down the line that was called out.  He immediately challenged the call which was sustained. There were two strange things that happened in relation to the situation.  Firstly, after all other challenges they showed a photo of the ball landing as evidence of the call.  In this single case they did not.  Secondly, the TV replays showed that the ball was very far inside both the sideline and the baseline.

cl point 1vlcsnap-2014-03-26-14h42m27s142 I described the decision as a brain fart. But there must be some reasonable explanation.

I was having a conversation with someone about how it could be possible when I suddenly remembered the Cyclops system that was used for many years in tennis.  This system used infrared beams to cover the area just outside the service line. When the beams were broken, the serve must have landed out. The system had a weakness though. If the ball was 50cm out, the beams were not broken and occasionally, if noone noticed, a serve that was clearly out was called in.

I have a suspicion that might be what happened in Ankara last weekend. The camera is so close to the line that the operator did not have the ball in his picture.  As the linesman had called out, they assumed the ball was not in picture because it was so far out.  And they didn’t show the photo on the broadcast because the ball wasn’t in the frame, ie there was nothing to see.

So the lesson is, if you are a line judge and want to cheat the video challenge system, don’t try it on close calls, but on ridiculous ones.  If the referee doesn’t directly overrule, you are home free.


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  1. Actually volleyball is little different to tennis. In tennis they allow the ball to compress and touch the line and it is called in. In volleyball it is supposed to be the initial contact with the ground. This is where some players make the mistake of thinking a ball is in when the initial contact is outside the line and the ball is on top of the line. If you are lucky the line judge will make the same mistake. I’m not sure how it works with the video challenge system, but hopefully it is set up that same way the officials are coached.


    1. Is it really? I always understood the rules to be the same here: “The ball is ‘out’ when the part of the ball which contacts the floor is completely outside the boundary lines.” [FIVB Official Volleyball Rules 2013–2016, 8.4.1]. (Cf. also the beach volleyball rules: “The ball is ”out” when it falls on the ground completely outside the boundary lines (without touching them)”.)


  2. Interesting blog, Mark. You are partially correct regarding this call in Ankara since I was courtside with Video Check System. We do have a camera which can always check the whole field of play, even if it’s not connected to the broadcaster due to its ratio format. So the ball far in or far out is visible, we have no Cyclope’s illnesses… However, this time the operator was unlucky since he had Ankara head coach Stytchev walking toward an a unusual position, exactly in front of it, covering the view. That’s why he could not broadcast anything, while the TV cameras from the top of their platforms had a clear view


  3. So, according to Tony Vasile’s explanation above, the ball at 22:14, 2nd set (@1:06:46 video) was really out of bounds ? I couldn’t believe it seeing the still picture …


    1. I was recently discussing exactly this with a couple of top ranking FIVB referees recently. Within FIVB refereeing/rules circles, this debate about this. There are two relevant rules. One states that if the ball touches the line, it is in. Another says if the ball touches outside the line, it is out.
      The debate in FIVB circles is what is the interpretation when the ball touches outside the line, then compresses and touches the line. There is one group that says that as soon as the ball touches outside the court, the rally is finished, so the compression is irrelevant. There is another group that is more practical.
      The answer is even FIVB referees don’t know the answer.


      1. It seems to me the new rule changes approved by the FIVB Congress try to clarify that:

        > For the purposes of the Challenge system the ball is “in” if at any moment of its contact with the floor, some part of the ball touches the court, including the boundary lines.

        (And also your recent favourite topic: “Contact with the net by a player between the antennae, during the action of playing the ball, is a fault.”, so that the volleyball would be played again as intended. 😉 )


      2. My ‘favourite’ topic was not the rule but the misunderstanding of the rule and irrational reaction to it. And now everyone is rejoicing so much they have ignored the changing of the playing area that will reduce the number of spectacular actions in the game.


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