FIH reject Hockey Ireland calls for a review of video referral system

FIH CEO Thierry Weil has rejected calls from Hockey Ireland for a review of the video referral system, prompted by the Irish men’s loss to Canada which denied them a place at Tokyo 2020.

Following a series of letters back and forth between Hockey Ireland and the FIH (seen by The Hook), the national body subsequently publicly stated their feeling that the “broadcast quality and number of camera angles available in respect of the qualification series were not of a level to facilitate Video Referral.

** to read Hockey Ireland’s statement in full, click here

“We believe the FIH should commission an independent review conducted by an external body with cross-sport expertise in the delivery of Video Referral technology and procedures to ensure the development of minimum standards to guarantee the necessary quality and consistency for the effective use of Video Referral in hockey and mitigating against another federation experiencing a similar situation.”

Due to what Hockey Ireland feels are a “lack of regulations”, they felt that there were “no grounds on which grounds on which to challenge the FIH in relation to the incident”, concluding “they have exhausted all avenues in respect of a potential appeal regarding the outcome of the series and the non-qualification of the men’s team for the Tokyo Olympic Games”.

It follows a lengthy letter in which they requested specifics on how many cameras were in place; whether any were GoPro cameras; how many angles were available to the video umpire and what actions were taken to confirm the minimum standards were in place.

A request was also made for all of the cameras angles of the specific incident at the end of normal time and why any additional angles consulted by the video umpire had not been made available.

Weil’s initial reply directly to Hockey Ireland focused on the “level of disquiet and upset amongst the Irish and some of the broader hockey communities around the world, on social media in particular, has gone well beyond disappointment” and “the level of disapproving commentary that has occurred in these communities is a significant concern and impacts negatively on the reputation of the sport.

“It should be noted however that the sentiment of the comment is not unanimous and that alternative points of view in support of the officials and against the backlash, also exist within the global hockey community.

“The personal abuse that one of our top officials has received, resulting in him having to close down his twitter account, is not a situation that is in line with hockey’s values.”

As for the specific incident raised, Weil added: “It is not appropriate for us to comment publicly on any individual decisions made in an individual match”.

He did add: “I can confirm that the Officials team at this match are fully confident in the decisions they made in the closing moments of the match, and we fully support the brave decision that they took in awarding a penalty stroke and not shying away from what they felt was the correct decision by taking an “easier” option.

“We can confirm that all officiating processes were correctly followed, and there were no technical or practical issues that caused any negative impact on the Officials being able to carry out their duties in accordance with the Rules of Hockey and the Regulations of the competition.

“In particular, and in reference to some of the incorrect statements that have since been unfortunately made in the media and on social media, we can confirm that throughout both matches, the video umpire had access to more camera angles upon which to base his decisions than were broadcast.

“This is normal as the television editor can choose what is broadcast, and in some cases, may choose to show the reactions of players, fans and coaches rather than the replays that the video umpire is looking at to make his decision.

“Since its implementation in 2005, the number of cameras necessary for a successful video umpire referral process at FIH World Level events has been based on professional experience and expertise over time within hockey.

“The camera specification in Canada and number of angles available to the video umpire was in line with the number the FIH required for this competition (minimum 6 cameras) and was the set up used during many of the FIH Pro League matches to improve the decision making and accuracy of the game.”

As an aside, the video referral system used in Donnybrook for the Irish women’s game against Canada could not be used to review shoot-out issues over the eight-second timing due to unavailable technology.

While it got lost in the euphoria, Canada endeavoured to review an issue but had to accept their fate when informed it was not an issue they could refer due to local restrictions.

Following Hockey Ireland’s public statement calling for a review of the video referral system, Weil was asked if it was something the FIH would consider by Inside The Games.

“When we talk about video umpires, we have one of the best systems around,” Weil told insidethegames.

** to read the Inside the Games article, click here

“When I first came to the FIH, I saw it and thought ‘football should have looked at that from a long time ago’ and should have learned from other sports, especially hockey, about how it is done.

“You should always develop the technology if you can, but the discussion is there was something wrong in the quality which was given to the umpires and we clearly say there is nothing wrong.

“Our reply was based on them asking us for a position and asking us to make clear steps in showing evidence to them and to the world, which you can never do.

“If you start to do this, where do you end? 

“Every Monday you will have to send videos and replays and reply to different things from different people.

“There is a never-ending story and, as long as human beings are involved in umpiring, there will be some mistakes and that needs to be accepted.

“That doesn’t mean I am saying now it was a mistake.”

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