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The AFL's ARC dilemma: Pay the cost and get their review system right - or blow it up and walk away?

Roar Rookie
20th February, 2024
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20th February, 2024
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The AFL’s AFL Review Centre (ARC), crucial in the league’s commitment to fair play, has faced intense scrutiny in recent years. The pressing question is whether the current system requires enhancement, or complete abandonment.

In 2019 the AFL introduced an ambitious overhaul of its review system, with the goal of establishing a centralised centre for real-time evaluations throughout the league. Upon evaluating the current situation, it is clear that the technology may not be fulfilling its prospective promises.

Comparing the use of virtual assistance across global sports reveals the shortcomings of the ARC. The AFL requires more modern technology compared to cricket due of its fast paced 360-degree nature, which differs from cricket’s reliance on localised areas of play. The English Premier League’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, although technologically sophisticated, has been criticised for causing disruptions during games and creating uncertainty among players and fans. This leads to a consideration of the AFL ARC’s technology and how it affects the game’s progression.

AFL media figure and former Collingwood President Eddie McGuire has suggested implementing a real-time scanning system to guarantee accuracy in judgements, using last year’s contentious Adelaide Crows’ round 23 disallowed goal against the Sydney Swans as an example.

But use of this technology appears far off, leaving us with the current suboptimal system. An optimal scenario, similar to the Premier League, would need immediate in-ear decisions made within seconds to ensure the game’s flow is maintained without interruption. Goal-line technology, already used in soccer, might be implemented in the AFL to provide clear decisions without interrupting the game.

Technological enhancements must be explored to improve the ARC. Key components must include touch detection off the boot, goal line technology, and in-ball tracking to coordinate ball movement, camera views, and additional data. These innovations could simplify the decision-making process by removing the ambiguities that currently affect the system.

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James Rowbottom kicks the ball.

Sydney’s James Rowbottom gets a kick away. (Photo by Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Although the AFL has significant financial resources to implement these technologies, it seems the league is reluctant or does not prioritise the necessary reforms. The AFL must determine whether to spend to modify its technology to align it with the game’s needs, or to rely on on-field officials to make proper choices.

The ARC is at a critical juncture. If the league has doubts about the existing product, its development, or the possibility of discontinuing it, urgent attention is required. Investing resources and efforts should focus on modifying technology to meet the game’s needs rather than becoming outdated. The league can ensure fair play, uphold decision integrity, and maintain game fluidity by doing so.

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