Making sure VAR is a success

Louise Smyth

During the 2010 World Cup, a referee was famously dismissed from refereeing the rest of the tournament because of his decision to play on, despite a goal being scored. This led to the introduction of goal-line technology and, now, video assistant referees (VAR). Here, Graham Mackrell, managing director of precision gearing specialist Harmonic Drive, looks at the gearing requirements for cameras to make the use of VAR effective in this year’s world cup.

England player Frank Lampard took a shot that hit the bar of the goal post before landing clearly over the line and bouncing back out. The referee dismissed the goal, waving players to play on, leaving viewers furious. This is just one example of a referee making an unsupported decision because of their limited view at the time.
To improve the quality and fairness of refereeing decisions, the International Football Association has announced that VAR will be used in this year’s world cup. To make this a success, the cameras used need to be able to capture shots smoothly from hard to reach angles.
To record sporting events like this, organisers typically use remote controlled cameras on rigs that employ Harmonic Drive gears, otherwise known as strain wave gears. This is because Harmonic Drive gears have zero backlash for their entire operating life, allowing operators to maintain smoothness while filming.
While the image quality is important, so is accuracy especially when looking to use VAR. Harmonic Drive gears are compact and lightweight in terms of their design, making them easy to manoeuvre and provide high positioning accuracy for camera pans and tilts.
Using the right gears is crucial in making sure the quality of footage is able to prove helpful to VAR. With the pressure of millions of viewers tuning in to support their country, VAR gives referees the opportunities to make better informed decisions and save viewers at home, and in the stadium, from wrongful disappointment at this year’s world cup.


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