Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Team referrals made their debut in the hockey World Cup but raised questions about whether they actually helped the spectators at the Dhyan Chand stadium understand the reasons behind the decisions.

Referrals were introduced last year in the Champions Trophy to help in deciding on matters pertaining to decisions within the 23-metre area, including penalty corners, penalty strokes and awarding of goals.

Each team is given one opportunity to appeal against the on-field decision, with every successful referral allowing them the chance to retain the prerogative.

South Africa appealed twice in their match against Spain once against a goal and the other to find out whether a penalty corner decision was right or not. England too wanted the third umpire to intervene on a few penalty corners while Australia too turned to the electronic eye for the final word after the umpire turned down their request for a similar award.

Besides breaking the game into fragments and, perhaps, increasing the curiosity among a packed crowd, the referrals managed little else. It might have made sense to those who were either close to the action or were knowledgeable enough to know the nuances of the game but for the uninitiated and those seated in the farthest corners of the stadium, it was another of those numerous periods of lull.

The public address system too did not help in mending matters, with the announcement hardly going beyond the known truth that the team had opted for a referral. And, with replays not allowed during the period on the giant screen at the stadium, hockey continued to be a game of mysteries, with only the fast action in between coming as a saving grace.

Olympian Viren Rasquinha felt the referrals ought to have been followed up with proper explanations of why the decisions were either upheld or rejected. "While team referrals are welcome, we need to have the person at the public address system completely clued in to the game," he said.

Contending that such a move would in fact help people understand the sport better, Viren said: "Hockey has seen so many rule changes in the past. With the ball being too small to be followed by the spectators, a simple explanation of what transpired on the pitch will help."