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A technological helping hand for EHF EURO officials

EHF / Björn Pazen

Goal or no goal? Goal in time or after the final buzzer? Direct red card or two minutes after a hard foul? Wrong change?

Referees and officials have a huge number of decisions to make during a handball match. Starting at the Men’s EHF EURO 2016, different technologies have been used to support the match officials, starting with instant replay technology from the French company VisionSport. Since then, many more technologies have been implemented by the EHF, with further innovations introduced at the EHF EURO 2022.

In Hungary and Slovakia, for the first time table officials can request an instant replay in two cases: to analyse the substitution area for wrong changes, and to check the use of the time-out buzzer. Referees still can make use of the technology to replay fouls and to see whether the ball was fully in the goal or not, or if the goal was scored in time or not.

“The use of this technology brings clear and transparent decisions by all match officials, and we were trailblazers in using them in handball. This is a true helping tool for the officials. And all spectators in the arena and in front of TV can see what the referees or delegates are currently checking,” says Helmut Höritsch, EHF Senior Director and Chairman of the Competence Academy & Network.

TV partner Infront has helped implement a split screen at the EHF EURO 2022, so TV spectators can see the officials looking at the video screen and, at the same time, the sequences they are checking. And thanks to new icons, shown on the video cube in the arena and on the TV screen, fans immediately know which situations the instant replay was requested for.  

“In contrast to other sports or competitions, all decisions are taken on-site by our officials and experts, no external video referee somewhere else is involved in this process,” Höritsch underlines, adding: “We always follow our line to keep the system simple. And all decisions must be taken within one minute, they should not take longer.”

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Instant replay gives match officials the possibility to immediately watch a situation on a TV screen if they were not able to see the complete action on the court, or if they wish to check again before reaching a decision. For example, referees can check a situation from different camera angles.

The goal-line technology allows referees to utilise a number of cameras fixed to the goal to check whether the ball has crossed the goal-line. As the video is linked to the match clock, the referees can also check if the ball crossed the line before the end of half-time or full-time.

Substitution area technology provides a detailed view on both substitution areas and offers video assistance in case of decisions that concern the substitution areas. The two cameras are installed at the timekeeper table’s corners.

“Only our officials can request the instant replay technologies, not the teams,” Höritsch says.

In a first analysis of the EHF EURO 2022 the use of the new technologies was praised from all sides, although some things still need to be tweaked.

“Sometimes we used the technology too often, but this always the fact, when something is new,” Höritsch says. “But in general, all technologies work very well, and the implementation of those technologies was definitely the right decision.”

The success of the technology in supporting referees and officials has led to its use at the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne and the DELO EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, and Höritsch says its expansion to all EHF Champions League matches is also in discussion. Having proved its usefulness, instant replay is here to stay.

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