Stick a whistle in a robot’s mouth and empower him with a referee app featuring all the latest laws of the game. Am I being silly? Absolutely not. Robots drive cars … and fly planes … don’t they? So why wouldn’t they be able to analyse play and make the appropriate decision on a rugby field? For starters, you won’t need any other official around because the robot will be a one-stop shop.
TMOs? Sorted, because the robot will have the luxury of tapping into the broadcasters’ feed and view all the available angles – only once might I add – before making a quick on-field call. If the players want to argue, RobotRef 1.0 can provide them with proof courtesy of his chest-mounted 12 inch TV monitor … with the added bonus of highlighting the key areas with a combination of circles and lines like the ones Ashwin Willemse draws on his monitor on the studio at half-time.
Assistant referees? Sorted. Our technological marvel will of course be equipped with cricket-like hot spot vision to determine which player carries the ball over the touchline and GPS vision to find out the exact spot where the ball crossed the line. Then as far as officiating general play is concerned, I can’t see any reason for concern either.
First of all, taking the human element out of the equation means there won’t be any emotion involved like when Jaco Peyper almost apologised for sin-binning Lions flanker Jaco Kriel against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. If a guy broke the law, he must be punished and shouldn’t receive kind words of sentiment. That is what the player’s mom or missus is there for.
Added X-ray vision will enhance the android’s view to such an extent where he can easily spot infringements on the other side of the scrum and dirty tactics at the bottom of the ruck. Not to mention the 360 degree vision with real-time alerts that notifies the whistle operator of any notable thing he missed with an instant replay. Then there will always be the odd 50/50 incident which could go either way.
But even there, I think we should be sorted. Seeing that there probably won’t be a right or wrong answer anyway, this could be the perfect opportunity to get the crowd involved be allowing the robot a lifeline of asking the audience.
With all the money the rugby bosses will save on the four human officials, they can easily fit all the seats with a little voting console we see on the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The robot shows the slow-motion replay on the big screen: “Was that a forward pass? A for yes, B for no.’’ The results are revealed and majority rules.
But I must admit, even though robot refs might solve a lot of problems, they will also create a massive one. I mean, what the hell will most rugby fans bitch about at work on the Monday?