Referees have got their hands on some advanced technology, which is already vastly improving the fairness of sports. For example, Hawk-Eye ball-tracking software is now used to examine contested calls in tennis, and photo-finish cameras in athletics can now take 3000 snapshots per second to reveal the winner.Spend enough time watching NBA refs in action, and you might be inclined to agree.
But there is the potential for technology to do much more – even to take over the enforcement of the rules altogether. That could spare some sports refs from the unpleasant consequences of a bad call, which in extreme cases can lead to death threats. As Harding's team points out, it could also limit the scope for corrupt officials to influence a game.
So perhaps the time has come for the fans, competitors, and sport organisers who embrace technology in many areas to allow referees and umpires to do the same.
Of course, everyone knows that the real reason virtual refs are resisted so fervently isn't the desire for preserving the purity of sport, but for preserving the all-holy blame-it-on-the-ump. You just can't sass a circuitboard.