In the last EuroBasket and EuroBasket Women’s competitions in 2007 and also in 2009, FIBA Europe used a new form of technology to assist the officials and the teams in their preparation and subsequent review of the games that were played.
The concept of the Digital Score Sheet (DSS), began in 1999 at the EuroBasket in France. In one of the most important games in the competition, the host France was drawn against Yugoslavia. In a close game, an incident occurred during the final minutes that could have made a huge impact on the game and affected which team went through to the semi-final. One of the referees in this game, Miguel Betancor from Spain was forced to use his game management skills to the maximum, as he sought to find the correct outcome.
With a few minutes remaining in quarter final game, one of the leading players for one of the teams committed a foul. The table officials informed the referees that this was in fact his 5th foul. Immediately there were protests from the bench of the player who had fouled out. The bench who believed that he had only committed 4 fouls began to strongly complain and protest. Betancor found himself in a position, where common sense told him something was wrong. For an important player to be playing on 4 fouls when there was still a long time to play and for such an experienced coach to leave the player in the game in this position, didn’t make sense. Whilst the protests continued, he quickly asked the statistician on the opposing team bench how many fouls he thought the player had. He replied “only 4”. A show of honesty and great sportsmanship gave Betancor confirmation of what he believed to be true, that there had been an error in communicating a previous foul to the table. Maybe the referee had signaled the wrong number, maybe the table official had marked a foul against the wrong player, but it was clear that human error was to blame. The player stayed in the game, and played an important part in his team winning the game. Although Betancor’s actions in getting the information were not exactly “according to the rules”, there was complete acceptance in his final decision. However, this situation gave focus and thought as to how human error could be eliminated quickly during a game. In considering this aspect and in trying to find a solution, it would also be possible to provide other tools for the training of officials and more importantly to enable the referees to review their decisions during the game if required or allowed.
As a result, the concept of a DSS began to take form and over the next 3 years a model was produced in co-operation with the University of Las Palmas Gran Canaria and Maxosystem SL, that was tried and tested in the EuroBasket competitions in 2003 and again in 2005, as well as a number of other events. The principle of this software that was developed, was that it should run in conjunction with the video or television feed that may be available at any game, especially as it is this feed that referees finally use to review the games. It is also the same medium used by teams to review their tactics, or scout other teams.
The DSS takes the signal from any camera in the arena and through an interface records it onto a hard drive.
Many different actions can then be recorded and then located within the video of the game. In a similar way to “live- scores”, which can be found on many websites today, each action has a record very similar to those that you find in recording statistics. This means that each action can be located in the game, by the point in time that it happened. A computer based version of the score sheet is available on a laptop, and the scores, fouls PLUS many other actions are recorded, in a combination of scorer’s duties and statisticians duties as well.
However, this in itself was nothing new, knowing the time is one thing, but quickly locating it is another. So the designers also included the ability to locate any play via an action recorded in the score sheet, so as to eliminate the kind or error that Betancor experienced. As an example, if the same situation arose with the DSS in operation, a simple click on the 4 fouls recorded in the score sheet for this player would immediately take you to the video of that play. You could then see not only the foul, but also the signal of the referee in most cases, which could establish whether any mistake had been made.
The ability to do this is not yet possible according to the official rules, but the great leap that this project made enabled a number of other pieces of information to be used from this recording. For the referees, the DSS provided a means to quickly review certain plays in their post-game analysis. Instead of scanning through almost two hours of video, by clicking on individual fouls or shots, or by even entering the actual game time, they could quickly go to exactly that play to review what they had done. Another important aspect is that the project also allows the user to jump backwards or forwards in 5, 10 or 15 second steps. This allows for example, a foul not only to be reviewed, but also the play leading up to the foul.
In a similar way, this project can also be used to enhance the coach’s review of the game. By clicking on any individual player and filtering his actions (e.g., fouls, or points scored), the coaching staff can look at the fouls the player committed, or the points scored and how they were created. This also gives the opportunity for coaches to scout other teams when the DSS is used, as well as their own.
In 2009 in the EuroBasket and EuroBasket Women, the 16 participating teams were given copies of the DSS DVD, in each of the games where the DSS was used. In Poland, the teams were also briefed for the first time on the possible uses of the DSS and a user manual was produced to fully explain the different aspects of the programme. One of the great things about the DSS, is that no drivers or special software has to be installed on the user’s computer. Everything that is needed to run the programme is included within the DVD.
So far, the feedback from the referees, who have used this tool, has been excellent. In both EuroBasket competitions in 2009, all of the debriefings after each game and all of the referee meetings each day, utilised clips that had been captured from the DSS. The observers and instructors no longer needed to spend many hours cutting video clips to use. Most of the plays that they needed could be easily found and used via the DSS. After each game in Poland, the referees and teams received a copy of the DVD, normally within 30-60 minutes of the finish of the game and this became the main tool for reviewing any aspect of the game for the referees and teams.
Although in the EuroBasket the television feed was used, the DSS can also be used with a simple video recorder for lower level games. Only the quality and position of the camera will determine what can be seen and what information can be used effectively.
Outside of Europe, FIBA Americas have also piloted the use of this software in a number of tournaments and it is intended that this will become an integral part of their main competitions, in the same way that it is used in Europe. Javier Ortero, IT Manager for FIBA Americas, said: “This tool is very simple to use, but has many great possibilities to enhance and help the job of the teams and those people working with the referees, as well as the referees themselves”.
FIBA Europe has also used the DSS as a form of instant replay. As it takes the same signal from the television, the referee who goes to the table to review any play according the Official basketball Rules has direct and quick access to the play, by working with the computer operator at the table.
There is no need for the delay associated with communication with a TV director or outside broadcast unit. Betancor states: “Our next goal for the future generation of this software is to also capture the 5, 6, 7 or 8 different camera angles on each play and have these stored for review, giving referees and teams many different views from which to review a play or game. There are also many other applications that could help the referees, such as ensuring the right free-throw shooter goes to the line, that could reduce or eliminate the need for correctable errors. If we can reduce or eliminate this, we can ensure the game is clearer, with less confusion and in the example of my game in 1999, with less protest and human error in administrative aspects of the rules. This program was not conceived to check judgment decisions such as contact, it was conceived initially to ensure that an administrative error did not decide or influence a game. In addressing this, we have created a much bigger and more useful tool to be used outside of the four quarters of play. From both of our top competitions, we have been able to collect over 1,000 clips that we will now use in our 2010 teaching materials”.
For further information on the DSS you can contact:
- FIBA Europe - Richard Stokes at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Maxosystem SL – email@example.com
- University of Las Palmas Gran Canaria – Miguel Betancor at betancor@fibaeurope. com