LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Hockey may enjoy only a fraction of soccer’s wealth and glamour yet the sport’s governing body believes it could teach its bigger cousin a few things about the use of technology.
Like soccer, hockey uses video replays in major competitions to make key decisions. While it is not immune to controversies over the decisions themselves, hockey officials believe its video system is less intrusive and more transparent than soccer’s.
In soccer, a video assistant checks key decisions and suggests a VAR review if it appears the pitch referee has got it wrong. Yet many fans complain that goals are disallowed for trivial reasons, often after players and stadium announcers have celebrated.
Hockey uses the challenge system where a team can ask for a review if they believe a decision is wrong. If the video umpire agrees, they keep their right to a challenge; if not, they lose it for the rest of the game.
“In effect, it means that in the first half, nobody asks for the video umpire. You don’t joke around because you know if you are wrong, you penalise the team for the rest of the game,” said Thierry Weil, chief executive of the International Hockey Federation (FiH).
Replays of the incident are shown to the crowd and conversation between umpiring officials is broadcast to the public — which does not happen in soccer.
“Sometimes football should listen to what other sports do, and not only hockey,” Weil, a former FIFA marketing director, told a small group of reporters.
Weil was also proud of the way the players were monitored during top games.
“Every single player on the field of play is monitored so the coach can take players off and bring them on based on their physical condition,” he said.
Weil said innovation was important in hockey, which is one of the oldest Olympic sports but is now looking over its shoulder with newer sports clamouring to be allowed into the Games.
“You have sports knocking on the door which are being considered as cool sports and our sport is not so cool,” he said. “So you have to be on top of your sport and not taking things for granted.”
One idea he would like to implement is to place a light inside the ball which makes it glow and extinguishes when time is up. “It is the kind of thing we need to bring to the sport,” he said.
Weil said the FiH would also end the practice of watering the artificial pitches used for hockey as an environmental measure by 2024, even though he admitted that “some people say this will kill hockey”.
“You play a World Cup in India and put tonnes of water on the field of play whilst next door they don’t have water to drink, this is not something that can continue,” he said.
Weil also wanted more portable pitches in the Pro League — a worldwide league featuring nine teams in both the men’s and women’s competitions — such as the one deployed at the Twickenham Stoop rugby stadium for England’s home matches last season.
He said that was preferable to the temporary stadiums which had to be built for most games.
“If we can use existing infrastructure like we did in England, that is extremely useful,” he said. “Temporary infrastructure involves a lot of work and money, and you have to build the lavatories for that... When you hear what we have spent on portable lavatories, it’s nonsense.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis