Wimbledon can show them the way

Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic checks out a disputed call on a video screen, during his men's singles semifinal against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon. This technology is so good that the result is out in a jiffy.-AP

FIFA's loudest voices have been declaring that TV replays take too long, break the rhythm of a free-flowing game and add to the controversy. Tennis shows what nonsense this is. Twenty seconds after the ruling the facts are there for everyone to see — on the big screen courtside and on millions of televisions worldwide. By Ted Corbett.

There is a lot to be said for civilised old Wimbledon: no plastic trumpets to disturb those who are middle-aged by birth certificate or temperament, only the occasional Mexican Wave to unsettle the even older and a strawberries price range that will empty your pocket before you can say Vera Zvonareva.

For the last 50 years I have not had many opportunities to take in this tennis fortnight but this summer, a heated, some might say overheated, tournament tempted me to watch the familiar sights and sounds and suffer the all too familiar heartaches.

Only those of us who are English and fully aware of this sporting tennis life since the Second World War know how our hopes have built towards the end of the two weeks and how regularly hope has become nightmare. Too often.

So for a while I was glad to turn my back on Wimbledon but this year my daily vigil left me impressed as I watched from my sofa — cricket and football, horse racing and the rest mean it has been a busy time for the best seat in the house — but sadly it was not until late in the second week that I realised just what Wimbledon had to offer beyond its ivy-covered walls.

FIFA, the world football governing body, might have been interested to see just how quickly and efficiently contentious replays can be put aside.

The line decisions in this simple game — two players, a dozen balls, a net and a couple of rackets, ideal for television and what could be easier to follow — are dealt with so rapidly that there is no time nor place for argument. The players see the result and get on with the next point. Surely FIFA would relish this bit of peace in our time.

FIFA's loudest voices have been declaring that TV replays take too long, break the rhythm of a free-flowing game and add to the controversy. Tennis shows what nonsense this is. Twenty seconds after the ruling the facts are there for everyone to see — on the big screen courtside and on millions of televisions worldwide. The umpire calls the score and off we go again.

ICC, cricket's world governing body, stumbles edgily towards the 21st century way of life. It is of course a much more complicated game than tennis or football but agreement over the way the big decisions are reached needs to be clarified.

They too could learn lessons from a visit to Wimbledon and, gentlemen that they are, they would also relish the lack of bitterness afterwards. A game without a visible cuss word — in any language — must surely be the way to go.

Not that tennis has always been at the forefront of the new technological age. I remember many years ago a club staging a round of the Davis Cup — the international tournament — and being sent a number of radio handsets by the Lawn Tennis Association.

During the tournament there was little evidence of these radios which were meant to be used for easy communication between officialdom and press box and to improve crowd control.

We asked what had happened. An official told us: “The LTA seemed to be very worried about them being stolen so we locked them in the safe.”

The early days of cricket's attempt to keep pace with the Age of Technology were also fraught with problems. I paid a visit to one TV umpire who was attempting to judge run-outs on a television half the size of the one in my front room. Another had to press one of two identical buttons to indicate “out” and “not out”; naturally there was a mix-up.

So too with the speed guns at various grounds. I asked one specialist if he could give me the figures for my newspaper. When I inquired how long it might take — thinking a few minutes perhaps — he said: “I will have to send them back to head office for approval at board level. About a month I should think.”

Even horse racing found that the photo-finish equipment had to be adjusted to give a true result on some grounds; cricket catches still cause problems when the fielder's fingers and the grass seem to merge. Instinct says it's a catch; the pictures seem to say the ball is taken on the half volley.

Back to Wimbledon. I am convinced that it is the clarity of the decisions that allows the event to move forward in such a sweet-tempered way. Rows over line decisions used to be the stuff of which Wimbledon was made; no longer.

During the 1970s two executives in my newspaper office fell out over such rulings seen on a black and white set — shades of grey in truth — and never spoke age. I'm serious. Never spoke again.

Finally, if only that strange man Fabio Capello had been at Wimbledon he might have understood his own faults.

Each foreign-born tennis player turned up for interview able to speak English; better than many of the home-born players in the Premier League if truth be known.

Contrast that with Capello's mumblings which must have contributed to his team's failure to carry out his instructions.

I'm not sure if Wimbledon is the finest tournament on the planet but I am sure it has lessons for every other international sporting body.