Referees vs. electronic officiating: Which is better?


Fact Box

  • In the United States, there are about 13,200 referees employed as of 2021, with 75.7% being men and 24.3% being women. 
  • Zippia reports that a referee’s salary typically range from $25,000-127,000, but most make $56,571. The three highest paying states for referees are Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Connecticut. 
  • A video assistant referee (VAR) is a tool that supports a team of referees with the use of numerous slow motion cameras. Since the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the system has been used in over 100 competitions around the world. 
  • According to an FC Business survey, sports fans’ favorite innovations were goal-line technology, Hawk-Eye, and photo finish imagery.

Luis (Electronic officiating)

Refereeing reliability is one of the most critical aspects of the sporting discipline, considering this will prevent an unfair result for teams and athletes. Because of this, referees will always be inferior to electronic officiating, considering that they are human beings that can commit mistakes. The problem is that some of these mistakes can sometimes become historical sports moments for the wrong reason, hurting fans' trust in the industry since it raises suspicion of corruption. However, using technology eliminates this type of dangerous controversy.

Another reason why electronic officiating is better is that it makes everything faster. After all, this technology can make immediate decisions that prevent the game from wasting valuable time analyzing a certain detail to make a call. This is a definite perk not only for fans who are watching in the stadium or on the TV but also for the players on the field, considering that it makes the game more dynamic and entertaining.

Finally, the number of mistakes made by electronic officiating is considerably lower than the ones committed by referees. This has been the main reason so many sporting disciplines that have always relied on the human eye have decided to move toward incorporating more technology. The greatest example is soccer's 'offside' and tennis' so-called 'Hawk-Eye.'

While referees have always been a crucial part of the sports industry, they are the past. Electronic officiating is so much better and more reliable that they are now part of the present and will inevitably become the future that sports must keep evolving.

Dae (Referees)

Referees have long been a staple of sports games, making quick decisions on the field and ensuring players adhere to the rules. In spite of advanced technology and questions over electronic officiating replacing referees, humans are still better than electronic officiating.

Referees have the ability to interpret the nuances of a game. They consider the context of a play and make judgment calls based on moment-to-moment experience. An electronic system can only follow predetermined rules and may not be able to account for situational factors. Referees use human discretion based on the understanding of plays going awry through things like fouls or foul play between players in making their calls. In some cases, referees must eject players based on these incidents. Electronic systems would be very limited in processing certain slights that fall outside its programmed scope.

Similarly, referees have flexibility, adapting to changes in the game and making adjustments to ensure fair play. For example, a referee can change aspects of the game to ensure fairness if weather conditions change or an unexpected injury occurs. Electronic systems may not be able to adjust to these changes the same way. Referees also provide instant feedback to players and coaches, which helps players better understand the rules of the game, promoting better sportsmanship and fair play. Electronic systems may not be able to provide this level of interaction.

Finally, referees can build a rapport with players and coaches, creating a sense of community and respect for the game. Electronic systems cannot foster the same human connection. So, while technology has certainly made advancements in sports officiating, referees are still better than electronic officiating. They bring their experience and training to the game, adapt to changing situations, provide instant feedback, and build a connection with players and coaches.

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