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Hardcover | $26.95 Trade | £21.95 | 296 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 26 b&w illus. | October 2016 | ISBN: 9780262035392
Paperback | $19.95 Trade | £14.95 | 296 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 26 b&w illus. | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262534444
eBook | $13.95 Trade | September 2016 | ISBN: 9780262337731
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Bad Call

Technology’s Attack on Referees and Umpires and How to Fix It


Good call or bad call, referees and umpires have always had the final say in sports. Bad calls are more visible: plays are televised backward and forward and in slow motion. New technologies—the Hawk-Eye system used in tennis and cricket, for example, and the goal-line technology used in English football—introduced to correct bad calls sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong, but always undermine the authority of referees and umpires. Bad Call looks at the technologies used to make refereeing decisions in sports, analyzes them in action, and explains the consequences.

Used well, technologies can help referees reach the right decision and deliver justice for fans: a fair match in which the best team wins. Used poorly, however, decision-making technologies pass off statements of probability as perfect accuracy and perpetuate a mythology of infallibility. The authors re-analyze three seasons of play in English Premier League football, and discover that goal line technology was irrelevant; so many crucial wrong decisions were made that different teams should have won the Premiership, advanced to the Champions League, and been relegated. Simple video replay could have prevented most of these bad calls. (Major League baseball learned this lesson, introducing expanded replay after a bad call cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.)

What matters in sports is not computer-generated projections of ball position but what is seen by the human eye—reconciling what the sports fan sees and what the game official sees.

About the Authors

Harry Collins is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise, and Science at Cardiff University. He is the author of Changing Order, Gravity’s Shadow, Gravity’s Ghost, Gravity’s Ghost and Big Dog, and other books. He is coauthor of Bad Call: Technology’s Attack on Referees and Umpires and How to Fix It (MIT Press).

Robert Evans is Personal Chair in the Cardiff School of Social Sciences.

Christopher Higgins is a PhD candidate at Cardiff University.


“This is a thoroughly absorbing read because it sends a strong message about the need for change at the top levels of sports. I am a former General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd and last season I witnessed over 100 major game-changing errors like those highlighted in this book, eroding the status of the referee and his colleagues. I agree with the authors that the use of sports technology needs a rethink.”
Keith Hackett, former referee, FIFA, Premier League; UEFA referee expert; coauthor of You Are the Ref
Bad Call is a brilliant book! It comprehensively dissects and analyzes the ever-increasing role of technology in sport and the unintended consequences that have emerged. The book is not only a must-read for those who are fans of sport but also for students, researchers, and administrators of sport.”
Stephen Frawley, Director, Australian Centre for Olympic Studies, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Bad Call is an engaging, accessible must-read for officials and fans in any sport using or contemplating using umpiring decision-aid technologies. It combines informed analysis of the science of decision-aid technologies (including discussion of their limitations) with an acute appreciation of the practical and philosophical issues they pose for sport.”
J. S. Russell, Past Chair, Langara College Research Ethics Board, Langara College; former editor of Journal of the Philosophy of Sport