With the final preparations for the EHF EURO 2018 underway, one of the most important areas of focus from the EHF delegate and referee standpoint is the technology support that will be available to assist with decision making.
From Tuesday morning through until Wednesday evening, EHF delegates and referees are participating in the Official’s Conference, where the technologies available and the instances where each may be used are being discussed.
The technologies include a refined version of the Instant Replay used at the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, new goal-light installations, and a buzzer for team timeouts rather than the previously used cards.
Clear guidelines and communication for Instant Replay
“The main focus is the technology support we are using in this championship. It was a clear advice and stipulated by the president, after so many experiences at the last one in Croatia at the men’s championship, that especially this instant replay usage shall be based on clear guidelines – guidelines that are communicated to the public prior, so that everybody in the hall, on TV, all people concerned on court, know what the reason for an instant replay in handball is,” says EHF Competence Academy and Network Coordinator Helmut Höritsch.
To help make the Instant Replay technology more transparent for teams and spectators, both in the arena and watching on TV, the EHF have implemented four icons that will be shown on screen to indicate why the situation is being reviewed: for goal line, to check whether a goal was scored or not; for disqualification; for substitution; and for use of the buzzer.
“We don’t have the system like in football – the VAR system, the video assistant referee outside – we leave the responsibility solely to our on- and off-court officiating people. There are two options for the referees: the goal-line proof, goal or no goal; or in case they are not sure about calling for a direct disqualification,” explains Höritsch.
“Before taking the decision, on their own request, they have the chance to review the situation and then decide direct red card, blue card or nothing. The reason for this instant review must be communicated to the public and this will be done on the vidi-wall with the icons we created, on the one hand, and also with assistance by the speaker, so that everybody knows what the reason is.
This is the third EHF EURO to make use of Instant Replay technology, which has also been used in the EHF FINAL4s.
Goal-light and substitution area cameras
Two other technologies available to assist the referees and delegates have also been fine-tuned since the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia in January. The goal-light system, which was previously a light box placed directly behind the goal, is now an LED tube positioned along the back perimeter of the goal in a rectangular shape, thereby making the light much more visible for players, coaches, referees and spectators.
The LED light is directly connected to the clock and timeout buzzer, so that when either of these situations occur, everyone involved in the match – and those watching – will immediately be notified not only audibly via the buzzer, but also visually.
The substitution area cameras were also in use in Croatia, allowing delegates to review situations where they were uncertain about player substitutions. Höritsch is clear that the technology is only to be used to confirm the identity of the players involved, and for no other purpose.
Electronic team timeout requests
For the first time, the EHF EURO will make use of the electronic team timeout request technology, or ‘the buzzer’. The buzzer is a large red button placed at the end of each team bench, allowing coaches to request a timeout simply by pressing the button, rather than the cards previously used. Once a coach presses the buzzer, the clock will stop and the goal-light will light up to indicate a timeout.
“Whether this is done correctly following the Rules of the Game, or it is abused somehow or misused by the coaches – this right is with the delegates,” says Höritsch. The buzzer has been used at EHF FINAL4s and at several IHF championships with no issues however, the referees and delegates have discussed clear guidelines for punishment in case a situation of misuse does arise.
Höritsch says that the EHF limited the number of situations and tools available to only the most critical, in order to keep these technologies manageable for the referees and delegates.
“These are the four cases. We deliberately confined it to these four situations,” he says.