Monday, December 11, 2017

Video Killed the Armchair Star: New R&A Video Protocols

A working group led by The R&A and the USGA has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf.

And about time too! These armchair pundits, who watch their 60 inch TV HD screens almost praying that a Pro will cock up so they can report it, are now being forcibly retired. So please, please stop and just enjoy watching the bloody game.

I’d like to take credit for this new approach – seeing as the new protocol is one I had
advocated previously – but that would be laughable. It is reassuring, however, to see that so many of us are on the same page. From January 1st, 2018, the most important bodies in the game (R&A, USGA etc.) will pursue the most logical and sensible solution possible to cutting the armchair pundits out of the game: namely the tournament’s governing body will assign officials to watch the live TV coverage and then make the decision on whether any penalties need to be applied. Those armchair guys were making a mockery of tournament processes… but thankfully no more.

(NB. the title is a reference to The Buggles' hit 'Video Killed the Radio Star', from 1980, in case you're not in touch with your inner 80s.)

So here’s what the working group have published today:

New protocols
The group, consisting of the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and The PGA of America, as well as the governing bodies, will implement the following measures from 1 January 2018:
  • Assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast of a competition to help identify and resolve Rules issues as they arise 
  • Discontinue any steps to facilitate or consider viewer call-ins as part of the Rules decision process
New Local Rule 
In addition, The R&A and the USGA have approved the adoption of a Local Rule, available from 1 January, to eliminate the additional two-stroke penalty for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player was unaware of the penalty. 

All of the organisations represented on the working group will introduce the Local Rule for 2018 and this score card penalty will be permanently removed when the modernised Rules of Golf take effect on 1 January 2019. 

The R&A and the USGA established the video review working group in April to initiate a collaborative discussion on the role video footage can play when applying the Rules, including the challenges and benefits of its use and also the issues that arise from viewer call-ins.  

Important Issue 
David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A, said, “This has clearly become an important issue in the sport that we felt we should address at this stage ahead of the implementation of the updated Rules of Golf in 2019.

“We have concluded that whilst players should continue to be penalised for all breaches of the Rules during a competition, including any that come to light after the score card is returned, an additional penalty for the score card error is not required.”

“The level of collaboration with our partners has been both vital and gratifying as we look to the future,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status. “As technology has continued to evolve, it has allowed us to evolve how we operate, as well.”

Limiting video review
The new protocols also recognise the importance of limiting video review to material obtained from the committee’s broadcast partner. Other video, such as from an individual’s smartphone or camera, will not be used under these protocols. 

The new protocols and Local Rule are the latest measures announced by The R&A and the USGA to address concerns related to video evidence. In April, Decision 34-3/10 was issued to limit the use of video through the introduction of a “reasonable judgement” standard and a “naked eye” standard.

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