This is not going to be about changing a set of balls or putting new spots on tables but rather about replacing the cue ball to an exact position after a miss has been called and a request that the stroke be replayed.
All referees should take a line of sight if the cue ball is suspected, or seen to be, in a snookered position to any ball or balls on and should be able to replace the ball if later requested to do so with a fair degree of accuracy and gain a satisfactory conclusion, either with or without player consultation.
It is still as well to use all aids possible in determining the exact position of the cue ball before the stroke is played. These aids, apart from the essential ‘line of sight’, include object balls, chalk and finger marks on the bed of the table and the position of the cue ball in relation to them, chalk marks on the cushions, scratches or damaged areas on the rails, how far past the snookering ball any cushion can be struck and using one or more of the six spots on the table, as well as the baulk line, ‘D’ and pockets, as reference points.
Other things can also be utilised and in some cases can be a more accurate guide. From a known position while standing at the table does anything in the room line up exactly, or in an exact measurable position, with the cue ball? These could include a specific feature on a nearby table, a decorative feature or the end of a rail or a pocket edge e.g., or a letter of a word in a nearby sign or logo, or the clip on a cue case on a nearby shelf, etc. etc. Try to think outside the box, or in this case, outside the immediate confines of the table.
The problem becomes a lot more difficult if object balls have been moved in the course of the stroke played and with the lack of T.V. camera replays making it very difficult to be totally accurate, it is still essential that any colours that have been moved are replaced as closely as possible to their original positions as well as any reds, especially those integral to the stroke or that are in isolation, being replaced.
It is for this reason that a good referee will always have a mental picture of the lay of the balls and update that mental picture after each stroke.
The first thing to take into account when forming this mental picture is whether any colours are still on their spots. The number of colours that need to have their position memorised is then immediately reduced to the number that are not on their spots, the highest that number could be is six and it could also be as low as nil.
The red balls here are a special case, as if there are a good number left to be potted, the positions of them can be split into those that are still in a pack and those that are singly isolated or in very small groups.
Attacking this problem in a methodical manner is essential. Attend to any large pack of reds first, if the balls have only been moved slightly a simple re-gathering will, in most cases satisfy both striker and non-striker but consultation with both is still strongly advised. Balls in this situation should be moved minimally, only as much as they were disturbed and singly, not gathered roughly. Any balls that are now able to be potted in this pack but weren’t, or weren’t and now are, or a plant created where there was none, or vice versa, should immediately be noticed by the offender and gentlemanly conduct will demand that the referee be informed. This would then leave the problem of replacing just the other few and isolated red balls that have been moved which can be overcome both by your ‘mental picture’ and consultation.
The fewer reds that are left on the table at any time will, of course, reduce by degrees the difficulty of forming this mental picture and thus the complication of repositioning them.
One other thing that can leave an unsuspecting or novice referee stood in consternation is if a miss has to be called when the striker was not playing from a snookered position and had straight line access to a ball or balls on. It is because of this possibility that an alert referee will have that mental picture in place for every stroke, not just the ones where a snooker is involved.
One final word of caution. It would not be acceptable practice for referees to take photos with their smart phones for any potential instances where a miss might be called and is a further reason to develop mental picture skills.