The quarterfinals at the FIH Junior Men’s World Cup on Tuesday were all close affairs that could have gone either way till the very end. However, something interesting and unusual happened in the fourth and final knockout game, between Spain and Pakistan.
Spain had just managed to level scores 1-1 through a penalty corner (PC) in the 37th minute and was awarded another just a minute later, which was re-awarded. Pakistan protested and sought a referral, claiming the ball had hit a Spanish player outside the circle but inside the 23m area. The video umpire concurred, recommending a free hit out to Pakistan.
The on-field umpire, Bruce Bale of England disagreed. He insisted that he had re-awarded the PC for an infringement inside the circle and stuck by it, overruling the video umpire. However, he did allow Pakistan to retain it referral. This was surprising since it negated the role of the video umpire despite a referral.
“No, I have never experienced something like this before, I agree it is surprising. I did not notice it at the time during the match but it was brought to my notice later,” Pakistan coach Roelant Oltmans admitted. But India coach CR Kumar claimed it was not the first time this had happened and all teams were clear on the point that the match umpire’s decision is final.
“The field umpire has every right to take the final decision. Even during the Asian Games during a match the video umpire recommended awarding a PC but the field umpire said in his opinion it wasn’t and stuck to his decision, so this is not the first time it has happened,” he explained.
As per the rulebook, he is right.
Under Clause 6, appendix 17 of the FIH tournament regulations updated October this year, “the final decision, including any matter of interpretation, remains with the Match Umpire and not the Video Umpire.”
The video umpire, in other words, can only advise/recommend, not adjudicate on a referral, unlike football or cricket where the TV/third umpire is the final arbitrator of a review.
Spain went on to convert the PC and take a 2-1 lead and it was a crucial moment that tilted the game in Spain’s favour, which won the match 4-2. It puts a question mark on the whole referral system and, although not very common, does reduce the efficacy of the power to protest by teams on field.
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