Instant Replay and the Evolution of Officiating


Sterling Sellers, Journalist

 It could be argued that the most difficult role in all of sports is the job of the referee. Regulating the rules and flow of a game is a challenging prospect in itself; but also the fact that every player, fan, and journalist has a birds eye view of your every decision doesn’t make things easier.

      Everyone who has ever watched a major professional sport has probably witnessed an instance in which it appears that a referee has made an error in judgment.

      These decisions can completely change the outcome of a contest; so it would seem as though instant replay would be a simple answer to a referee’s error. However, this solution comes with inherent flaws.

      Instant replay has been a commodity in sports for decades. Fans and sportscasters have had the opportunity to reevaluate every action and decision within seconds of it happening. So what has kept instant replay from being used by the officials who make the important decisions?

       The answer changes from sport to sport. Every sport has different guidelines in regards to the role of instant replay; with some allowing instant replay to be used at any time, and others allowing it to be used only at certain times or a limited number of times.

       These differences occur because of the amount of time it takes to completely assess a replay. No one wants to sit around for minutes at a time, wondering when the officials will make a decision.

        Instant replay has also contributed to confusion surrounding certain rules. Perhaps the most notable one being what constitutes a caught pass in a football game. 

        When referees see an instant replay of a caught ball they look to see if the receiver keeps complete control of the ball all the way through the play. This has led to numerous occasions where audiences have been puzzled as to how long the “control” lasts, and when the play is actually over.

         While instant replay has corrected mistakes in some instances, it has also hindered the flow of the game. One must choose between getting everything right, or improving the flow of the game. In the end there is no right answer; and the instant replay system will probably never be perfected.