Was that on its spot?

An incident happened in a recently televised match that I would not have expected of a professional referee and which highlights something I have referenced previously. This is that the referee should be aware at all times of which of the colours are still on their spots at any time during a frame of Snooker. This becomes important whenever a call of ‘Miss’ is required so as to make the task of replacing balls that have been moved in the foul stroke so much easier and more importantly accurate, whenever the request is made for a stroke to be replayed.

The incident in question was just such a call of ‘Miss’ by the referee after a stroke from a snookered position and with only one red left on the table. This Red was situated very close to the top cushion with the Black also on that cushion and a matter of millimetres away from the red, or possibly even touching. In playing the stroke from within Baulk the cue-ball contacted the spotted Pink, though not the snookering ball it was still on the path to the ball-on. This was the only object ball moved in the stroke, which left the referee the simple task of re-spotting the Pink and replacing the cue-ball to its previously well scrutinised position when the non-striker asked for the stroke to be replayed.

This task, instead of taking a few tens of seconds, took multiple minutes to complete along with many visits to the marker, who was equipped with a monitor with replay, freeze frame and mixer frame features. Discussions were also had with the offender who was at pains to point out that the Pink was spotted prior to the stroke and was also in a position to advise the referee of the correct placing for the cue-ball, a fact corroborated by his opponent.

This sequence of events was an embarrassing and damning indictment of either a system or a referee who shall not be named but is otherwise very experienced and highly regarded. Now it must be said that he could have been acting under instruction from the head referee or tournament director or even of the company televising the event and indeed was heard to say to the player, I would assume talking about the marker, that “he can’t get it, we’ll have to go back to just us”. If that is the case then it is not the way that those making such decisions would instil confidence or give a positive example to rank and file referees worldwide and a review of any such policies would be positive and beneficial.

The technological advances of recent times have certainly been an aid to organisers and officials in many sports, including professional Snooker, but for all the uncertainties it now removes there are others that it has created and yet others that remain unfixable. This is true of V.A.R. in professional Football (Soccer), and of the various systems used in cricket, Snicko, Ball Tracking and Hot-Spot and where the ultimate decision sometimes still has to come back to the official in charge. The technology used in this case, although fallible in determining the exact position of the cue-ball prior to the stroke, was perfect in demonstrating that the Pink was spotted and why it took so long and took so many tries to come to that fact is the greatest mystery of this whole incident.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of referees and umpires taking charge of contests outside of those televised, are left only with the tools that do not rely on technology, that is to say, their senses, their intelligence, their experience and their training, sometimes just their common sense and in the case highlighted I have no doubt that those would have vastly outperformed the technology and the system that was used and which created such a farce.

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