‘Sky Judge’ Once Again On Table From Competition Committee For Owners In 2021

The owners meeting’s latest agenda was released yesterday with respect to which new rules proposals they will be taking under consideration in their upcoming meeting. As you might expect, once again, the idea of a ‘sky judge’ or equivalent position is back up for discussion, this time in the form of two separate but related proposals. The main proposal comes from the Competition Committee itself, with a follow up that works as a supplement submitted by the Baltimore Ravens.

The amendment from the Competition Committee empowers the Replay Official to communicate in real time with the on-field judges in order to relay what they define as objective information, and it also expands the list of game elements that are in his purview.

In addition to penalty enforcement, down and distance, spot fouls, and the game clock, the Replay Official under this proposal would also be permitted to communicate in the subjects of possession, completed and intercepted passes, loose balls and boundary lines, player location in relation to the boundaries, and down by contact rulings.

The proposal specifically expands the Replay Official’s role to have a more active rather than passive responsibility in-game, allowing him to “advise the game officials on specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present, and/or to address game administration issues”.

This is in effect combining the role of the replay official and the concept of the ‘sky judge’, which is an additional member of the officiating crew positioned off of the field whose job it is to review the game on video in real time and advise officials based on what he sees.

In the Ravens’ proposal, it formally adds an eighth member of the officiating staff rather than essentially folding the Replay Official into a dual role, giving this position the title of Booth Umpire, “with full communication to on-field officials and access to a television monitor”.

By and large, the two proposals would get at the same idea: supplementing the real-time human officiating with the benefit of real-time video review from a separate official who has the benefit of having a second look.

The idea behind the proposals is to increase the accuracy of the officiating while also minimizing the slowdown of the game through replay review. It could also serve to speed up the game by avoiding some of the gatherings that officials have during the game to discuss what they believe they saw, since the guy who has the video in front of him can be a tie-breaker of sorts.

Regular readers know I’m always on board for proposals that aim to increase the accuracy of officiating. I’m a big fan and proponent of the idea of real-time video corroboration, which should frankly, or at least hopefully, eliminate a lot of the formal booth reviews that we do see during games by correcting easy and obvious mistakes. It shouldn’t take three minutes to say ‘yeah, that ball actually did touch the ground’.

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