How Soccer Can Learn A Lot From Tennis

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It’s been years since I last watched a Wimbledon men’s singles tennis final on TV. By luck, it was one of the most extraordinary finals ever as Rafael Nadal narrowly defeated Roger Federer in five sets.

As a sports fan who spends the vast majority of his time watching soccer matches, there were a couple of aspects about the Wimbledon coverage that thoroughly impressed me.

First, it was a joy to listen to Wimbledon radio coverage over the internet from BBC Five Live. I’m so sick of the BBC blocking me from listening to their radio coverage of the Premier League, Champions League and international football matches due to rights restrictions.

Radio coverage of matches, especially from the BBC, adds so much drama to sports whether it’s Wimbledon or Premier League matches. Presumably Wimbledon hasn’t broken up the internet radio rights to their tennis matches so that the BBC doesn’t have to block the radio coverage for listeners outside the United Kingdom.

Second, it’s an absolute joy to see how the stodgy sport of tennis has used advances in technology to improve the game. While it’s not new to Wimbledon (it was introduced over twelve months ago), this was the first time I had a chance to watch the Hawk-Eye electronic review of controversial calls.

The way it works is simple. If a player wants to challenge a call that he believes was incorrect, a computerized animation of the call is shown on the electronic scoreboard within 30 seconds for the chair umpire, players, crowd and TV audience all to watch it live to see whether the call was correct or not.

The beauty of the technology is that it doesn’t interfere with the game because it’s so quick, it removes the controversy by proving to everyone whether a ball was in or out and it takes the pressure off the chair umpire.

While sports such as cricket and tennis are stereotypically perceived as being stodgy, conservative and behind the times, the reality is that soccer is the sport that is reluctant to change and more rooted in tradition for tradition’s sake. It’s time for soccer to grow up and for FIFA to begin using technology where it’s needed most. Let’s start with whether a ball has crossed a goal-line or not and then take it from there.

Here’s a video to show how impressive the Hawk-Eye technology is:

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