Rugby fans to be taken up close and personal to the players with new television 'Refcam'
11:18 GMT, 19 December 2012
Rugby fans will be closer than ever to the hard-hitting action from this weekend with the introduction of a 'Refcam' which promises to revolutionise how the sport is broadcast.
Officials will have a three-inch square High Definition camera strapped to their chest with a Velcro harness to record the action unfolding in front of them.
Sky Sports directors will have access to the feed for television output, while the RFU will make use of footage for referee training.
New insight: Rugby fans will be able to see the action close up with a new 'Refcam' being trialled in a Championship match this weekend
The first referee to wear the 'Refcam' will be Matt Carley, who takes charge of the Championship match between Newcastle Falcons and London Scottish at Kingston Park on Sunday.
The camera should offer a unique perspective into the role of the officials and what happens on the field of play.
It also records audio for an additional insight into conversations and arguments between players in addition to the existing ref's microphone.
If Sunday's trial is successful, the 'Refcam' could become a staple of television coverage of rugby.
'You are looking right into everything,' said Ed Morrison, the RFU's head of elite referees. 'You see what the referee sees. It is a way we can measure ourselves in a more accurate way and at the same time offer more education. The potential is enormous.'
Scrutiny: Officials' decisions will be analysed making use of the video evidence
Sky made an approach to Morrison last month following a successful experiment by American broadcaster HBO at an Amir Khan bout.
A tiny camera was sewn into the referee's bow tie, delivering a high quality, close quarters feed of every blow.
'I was spellbound,' added Morrison. 'It's a quite incredible piece of technology.
'For a scrum, you are looking down the tunnel. If you want to emphasise something, this will do so enormously.
'We can freeze it and ask a referee, What were you looking for What do you see wrong with that ruck or maul It will make a great training tool.'
The technology was successfully trialled by leading RFU official JP Doyle in a recent under-16 match at Harrow School.
Gus Williamson, Sky's executive rugby producer, said it would 'showcase rugby in a very good light.'
He said: 'The collisions in rugby are so brutal now. Imagine seeing two 18-stone forwards crashing into each other only 18 inches from the referee.
'It will make for some compelling images and it will offer a perspective of what it takes to do the job of the referee.'
The results of the trial, to include a number of Championship fixtures, will be assessed in the new year.
CAMERA TECHNOLOGY IN OTHER SPORTS
Boxing – A tiny camera was sewn into the referee's bow tie by American broadcaster HBO at a recent Amir Khan fight
Cricket – Broadcasters use a variety of technology to judge whether umpires have made the right call, including stump cams, Hawk-eye ball tracking and the Snickometer
Football – Goal line technology was trialled at the FIFA Club World Cup last week, using a microchip in the ball
End to controversy: Goal line technology was trialled by FIFA in the recent Club World Cup using a micro-chipped football and an adapted watch which flashes 'Goal' if the ball crossed the line
Tennis – Hawk-eye uses ten high-speed cameras around the court to judge whether the ball went out