Artificial Intelligence as refs in sports

It’s the fourth quarter and there are 3 seconds left on the clock. Your team is down by one. You drive to the net, go up for a layup and are smothered by a six foot guard. You miss but you are sure you will go to the line to shoot two. You walk to the line but the other team is already celebrating. There was no call. You lose all because of the referee. The outcome of games in sports are often controlled by calls made by referees and I feel that that is completely unfair. As a result I believe that we should replace human referees with artificial intelligence. In this article will give 3 reasons why I feel this will improve sports.

Human error. It’s something that is natural in life and cannot be prevented. But yet as a referee, not being able to see the elbow to the chest or the shove on the rebound is game and possibly career changing for some players. I find it unfair that games are decided incorrectly because of someone that is not even playing the game. According to a source, in NBA games there are on average 80-100 missed or incorrect calls per game.

Recently, leagues have allowed coaches to challenge calls in the NBA and NHL. Although I appreciate the effort, I do not think these challenges have made enough of an impact. In the NBA you only have one challenge per game, even if you get it right. Even worse, you don't get the ball even if your challenge is correct, it goes to a jump ball. In the NHL you are allowed an unlimited amount of challenges but there are consequences if you get them wrong, including a two minute delay of game penalty and more severe punishments the more challenges you get wrong. I personally like this system but the problem is that when you challenge, the decision just goes to the same referees and they just look at the play from different angles. By implementing artificial intelligence in sports, we would get far more correct calls and there would be no room for human error.

In sports referees obviously get paid, however the yearly cost to pay referees is most likely much more than you would imagine. In the 2018-2019 season in the NBA there were 65 referees in the league, each making somewhere from $150000 to $550000. In the 2018-2019 season in the NHL there were 48 referees , each paid somewhere between $165000 to $360000, and 48 linesmen, each making $110000 to $235000. Similar figures apply in the MLB. The leagues also pay for all the travel, hotel and food expenses for those referees. Although there would be large upfront costs to implement artificial intelligence onto each stadium, rink or court, it would still cost much less than all the costs associated with referees over a few years time.

As I have explained before, bad calls by referees can change games and even the careers of some players. I am now going to give you an example of this happening. In the 2006 NBA finals the Miami Heat played the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat were up 3-2 in the series going into game 6. With 26 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter Miami was up by one and had the ball. All the Mavericks needed was a stop and a basket to send it to a game 7. Dwayne Wade on Miami, then drives to the net in an attempt to score and elbows Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki while he is driving. Dirk then gets called for the foul and Dwayne Wade goes to the line to shoot two because the Heat were in bonus. Dirk Nowitzki found this absolutely ridiculous as Wade was the one who elbowed him. But that is not the way the referees saw it and after making both free throws, 25 game seconds later the Heat won the title.

(Go to 12:31 to watch the clip)

As a player of many sports, I find that it is unfair that greatness is taken away from us when we deserve it and that someone who is not even playing the game gets to decide our fate. I hope that people in the sports industry understand my frustration and see why we need this improvement in sports.

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