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Hockey Ireland call for overhaul of video review system following men's Olympic controversy

The Irish body have settled on this course of action having come to the conclusion they cannot appeal the result.

A file photo of the Irish men's team preparing for the Rio Olympics. They have narrowly missed out on a return to Tokyo this year.
A file photo of the Irish men's team preparing for the Rio Olympics. They have narrowly missed out on a return to Tokyo this year.

HOCKEY IRELAND ARE calling on the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to overhaul the sport’s video referral system in light of the controversy that led to the Irish men’s team missing out on a place at the 2020 Olympics. 

Hosts Canada edged Ireland in an Olympic qualifier last October, winning in a shootout after the two-legged play-off tie finished 6-6 on aggregate. Ireland led 6-5 on aggregate until the final second of the second leg, when a video referral by Canada — made while Ireland celebrated having heard the final whistle — resulted in the Canadians being awarded a penalty stroke upon review of a coming-together between Ireland’s Lee Cole and a Canadian attacker in the Irish circle.

Canada subsequently leveled proceedings and forced a shootout, in which Ireland led by two goals at the halfway mark but ultimately lost in sudden death.

Ireland captain Jonathan Bell said after the game that the video umpire “should hang his head in shame” for the awarding of the penalty stroke, adding that “a decision like that at this level is just not acceptable.” 

Also in the immediate aftermath of the game, Hockey Ireland sought clarification from the FIH regarding the quality of the Video Referral system available at the game, specifically the minimum required standard of the system’s broadcast quality along with the minimum number of available camera angles made necessary. The Irish body say they have not received a satisfactory answer from the FIH, but understand that there are no such minimum standards required in the sport at the moment. 

Hockey Ireland sought legal advice regarding the possibility of overturning the result in the weeks following the game, but said in a statement today they have exhausted all avenues of a potential appeal. 

“Hockey Ireland are of the view that the broadcast quality and number of camera angles available in respect of the qualification series were not of a level to facilitate Video Referral”, read the statement. 

“Hockey Ireland however, as a result of the lack of regulations in respect of Video Referral have no grounds on which to challenge the FIH in relation to the incident.” 

Instead, the Irish body say they are seeking an overhaul of the video referral system and called for an independent, cross-sport body with experience in using a video referral system to introduce minimum standards to hockey. 

“Hockey Ireland feels that minimum standards for the use of Video Referral need to be introduced as a matter of urgency and will look to work with other national and continental federations and indeed, the FIH, to explore the issue.

“We believe the FIH should commission an independent review conducted by an external body with cross sport expertise in the delivery of Video Referral technology and procedures to ensure the development of minimum standards to guarantee the necessary quality and consistency for the effective use of video referral in hockey and mitigating against another federation experiencing a similar situation.” 

The Irish body added that it does not condone negative social media comment directed to the game’s umpires, and wished Canada good luck at the Olympics in Tokyo. 

With reporting by Gavan Casey

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Gavin Cooney

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