Some 20 years on, football has joined the party with video referee officials, and it caused quite a fuss at the weekend.
We teamed up with our friends at Planet Rugby to look at a handful of incidents of recent times in both codes that have highlighted perhaps why having a video referee isn’t always the end to all problems.
Sanzaar ruled that the controversial try awarded to All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty in October 2017’s 25-24 win over the Springboks was a try.
Despite some people believing referee Jerome Garces and his TMO made a mistake by allowing the try, Sanzaar refs boss Lyndon Bray said the right decision was made.
“Crotty was not carrying the ball so there was no loss of control or knock-on at that point,” said Bray.
“Therefore the next issue to consider is if he propelled the ball forward trying to ground it.
“When he first made contact with ball, the ball was not at first in contact with the ground, and it appears the ball movement was straight down and not forward.
“If it was determined he had insufficient downward pressure it was still not a knock on. Then his momentum meant his upper body forced the ball and under law this is a try.”
Even former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall had his say:
“We’ve seen poor officiating cost teams too many times. I’d be saying these same things if it was an All Blacks player. It’s not anything to do with what colour jersey you’ve got on, it’s about the officials getting it right. We should feel some sympathy for South Africa because they were hard done by with that decision.
“It didn’t mean they were going to win the test by any means. But it means another decision, like we saw in the third test against the Lions, had a massive influence on the finish of a game and we’re all scratching our heads as to why the officials are getting it wrong.”
During a particularly insightful chat with Betway Insider, OBE awarder referee Ed Morrison talks about how VAR helps avoid incidents such as these – and how even football can take advantage.
“More big decisions are made correctly now than ever in the history of the game. There are the odd occasions, but they are very odd,” he says while he supports that VAR helped players and manager to improve their attitude during the game.
“How many times do you watch a soccer game on TV and the managers are going off the wall afterwards complaining about a decision?”
Trailing 20-0 with seven minutes during the 2017 World Cup semi-final against England, Tonga racked up three quick tried to go ahead 20-18.
Tongan forward Andrew Fifita then looked to have scored the winning fourth try. But the ball appeared to have been stripped from his grasp by an English tackler. Yet he picked it up and dived for the line regardless – and seemed to have scored the try.
Referee Matt Cecchin had a different view, though. Cecchin didn’t opt for the use of the video referee – which he really should have – and said that Fifita lost the ball forward.
Tongan coach Kristian Woolf wished Cecchin had used the technology available to him during such a high-stakes encounter.
“I would’ve thought in those circumstances there’s no way in the world you don’t have a look it at,” Woolf said.
“The game’s on the line, it’s the last play of the game. You look at other tries 10, 12 times and you don’t have a look at that. I really don’t understand that.”