Technological advancements in sport are nothing new. Take the examples of football and tennis. The equipment used now, if compared with thirty years ago, means that these sports are in some ways almost unrecognisable. The creation of new sports can even be due to technology. Take kite-surfing and windsurfing as examples. Could they, in any real sense, exist without the impetus technology provides us with?
The creep of technology into sport often goes hand in hand with the increasing influence of money and business. We need look no further than the dizzying array of football boots and strips on offer nowadays. Whereas we can say that the changes in the ball have made the sport better in many ways, could the same be said of a new strip made from some revolutionary new material?
Can technology help in refereeing? Nowadays it seems beyond doubt that technology can increase the sense of fairness in a game. In tennis the umpire now has electronic equipment to tell him if a ball has gone out. It is needed, so the argument goes, because the ball travels that much faster nowadays and so much more rides on the outcome of a fair decision. Such issues are also much talked about in football. Should there be sensors to detect if a ball has crossed the line for a throw-in or goal? Should action replays be used to determine if an incident deserves a red card or not? To these questions we are now encouraged to answer that technology is the answer.
Consider a very simple point however. The performance and very role of the referee and umpire is being questioned more and more. He cannot realistically allow technology to make every decision for him. Thus in the decisions where he is not allowed the aid of technology, he sees his authority undermined, as the dozens of cameras at big sporting events mean everyone but the referee has the benefit of being able to review an incident a thousand times over.
Nowadays opinions about technology in certain sports, usually the most popular, tend to be polarised. There is one school of thought that says we don't need any more technology, that sport is sport, mistakes will be made, that referees must always have authority, that mistakes are an essential part of the game allowing for discussion and argument among fans and the media alike. The other school of thought views sport as being no different from any other area of life. It requires big inputs of money nowadays and as a result requires that fairness operates at all times. Unfortunately, very often, those with the voice, are those who have an interest in asserting the technological argument. It may not be that they are wrong, but simply that a fair discussion on the subject is not allowed to take place.