TechMunch: Why We Need Hawkeye in the Rugby World Cup 2015

The English have been anticipating the start of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) for some time, and now that it has finally begun, Hawkeye’s SMART replay technology within the games has been drawing a lot of attention.

Hawkeye technology is an innovative officiating system that records and replays live sporting events. It has been designed to support match officials in decision making by instantaneously offering a wide selection of detailed action replays around controversial match events. The replays can be analysed during short breaks in game play, giving referees an important second look at a particular aspect of the game and assisting them in making that final and potentially game changing decision.

However, there are strict rules in which the technology can be referred to by the referee, though the tool is becoming increasingly popular. Uses vary from foul play to controversial tries, to footage being used by medics to make a judgement calls on whether to remove a player from the game or keep them on the pitch. In any case, the referee is now using the technology along with the Television Match Official’s (TMO) opinion in order to come to a final decision.

Prior to the start of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, there had been a series of test games to ensure that the technology was fully functional for the opening match. Now, only a few games into the tournament, this system has already proven its worth – no more so than for any English fan!

During half time of the opening England vs. Fiji match, Jonny Wilkinson and Sir Clive Woodward debated several questionable decisions made by the referee. Through the use of Hawkeye by the TMO, one of Fiji’s tries was overruled after the referee had originally allowed it. This was a controversial call but was correct nonetheless. Naturally, this decision was heavily debated by the two rugby legends at half time.

Although the use of the technology has made the game fairer as tries that should be allowed or disallowed can now easily be decided, many have condemned the use of the technology as the decision made by the referee during the game should stand, regardless of later repays.

Furthermore, one point against the TMO using Hawkeye is that it prolongs the game and can take several minutes to come to what could have been an already obvious decision – something that has occurred in a few of the RWC games already.

On the positive side, Hawkeye has helped keep the players safe as medics are able to view live footage and bring players off if they have sustained an injury; something that has already been highlighted by the head of the RWC, Alan Gilpin. However, it’s also being argued that the medics could use Hawkeye tactically or provoke conflict within the team if a player is unjustly removed from the field.

Ultimately, although originally designed to enhance the game, it’s possible the technology would be more popular if its use was more restricted. It’s fair to say that decision making in real-time can be tricky, but allowing the referee to continuously watch game replays, such as in the opening England game, can often ruin a game’s momentum. In response to these slow decisions, many aggravated fans have naturally taken to twitter to voice their opinions.

Angry fans aside, it looks like Hawkeye SMART replay technology has the potential to benefit sport and make it more equal. Rightful decisions will stand, wrong decisions will be almost instantly rectified, and importantly, players will be safer in the game.

So while it’s already clear that not everyone will agree with the decisions that the TMO settles on, when the decision falls in their team’s favour, I’m sure you’ll find them cheering.

Joe Saxon, Intern, Technology