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Drew in Just my thoughts,

Athletes Want to Replace Referees With Robots to Save Billions, Lives


A devastating missed call in a sporting event is bad. Really, really bad. When a team is screwed out of a win, there is little that can be done to appease the fans. They sulk, they hit their wives, and they get depressed. Seriously. There have been studies showing that fans of teams that just lost a game will register lower testosterone levels than those from the winning team. While that could be a good form of birth control, it’s not good for the fans or the sport as a whole. 

Then, there are the refs themselves. They are under constant pressure to get every call right, even though they are often tired, overworked, or simply old. I mean, NBA ref Joey Crawford is 63 years old. 


I wouldn't trust most 63 year olds to remember where they put their pill box, but we want this guy to make split second decisions as the best athletes in the world collide into each other? It's unrealistic. 

This would all be fun and games besides the fact that when a ref misses a call, the results can be devastating. A recent case in Brazil saw a ref killed and beheaded for making an incorrect call. They even put his head on a stake in the middle of the field. Then there was the incident in Uruguay where a player punched and killed a ref for blowing a call. 

As a former pro athlete, I have seen how frustrated players get firsthand. There was a particularly vengeful teammate I had in Israel who was fond of saying that he “hoped the ref's car flipped on the highway and exploded.” I don’t think he really meant it, but it shows how heated things get. And this was in a league where the highest paid player probably makes less than the Lakers ball boy.

There is no other way to put it: being a ref can be a thankless, dangerous job. 

But, what if something can be done to quell the rage that all players and fans sometimes feel toward referees? What if we can harness the power of technology so that never again does a critical game come down to an out of shape 63 year old being able to have the reaction time of someone 40 years younger?

We can, if we start taking steps to phase out human referees in favor of electronic ones. We already consult replays in many sports, such as basketball, football and baseball. Soccer players are crying out for it. Just the other day, Arsenal was screwed out of a goal because the referees were not allowed to use a replay. Aaron Ramsey spoke about the need to get these kinds of calls right in the future, and how technology could have helped. 

I want to take things a step beyond replay. I want to get rid of the referee as a profession. Just as telemarketers and real estate agents will be swallowed up by automation, so to should refs. 

We as a society have the skills to make this a reality. Robots can beat humans in chess. I believe that with a focused effort they can be programmed to analyze a sport and make the correct call every single time. Heck, why not program them to be black belts in Karate as well? Then if an overzealous player or fan comes at them, they can go straight Neo in the Matrix on them.


An initial investment in the research could come from deep pocketed team sponsors. Aaron Ramsey plays for Arsenal, a team heavily backed by Puma (XETRA: PUM) and Gatorade (NYSE: PEP). Those brands could foot the bill for this new technology and ultimately ingratiate themselves even more to the teams they represent. 

Building robot refs will pay off financially once every sports league no longer has to pay human salaries. Plus, fans will be willing to spend more for tickets once they know that they are going to see a game completely untainted by human error. TV prices will be driven up for the same reason. 

Sure, human refs will lose their jobs, but these are capable people who can find work elsewhere. And look at the bright side: if you don’t stock something correctly on a shelf at Walmart (NYSE: WMT), no one is going to put your head on a stick.