For a number of years now Umpires at World level events have been using radios when officiating. This has not only helped to establish an easier and direct means of communication between them, but also proved to be very valuable in improving their management of the game. Furthermore the radios have been invaluable since the introduction of the Video Umpire in Hockey, which requires instant communication between the Match Umpires and the Video official.
After reviewing the Umpires’ experiences at our FIH Tournaments and events it was felt that we could take further steps in improving our communications systems.
Following advice received from Bas de Grood, Managing Director of the supplier Abiom who are based in Wijchen, Netherlands, the FIH Umpiring Committee investigated the possibility of acquiring professional radio equipment, which has recently been introduced into football and is now used by UEFA and FIFA referees.
This equipment now being introduced is dedicated to the use of teams of Umpires who are able to establish conference communications, with up to 6 devices specifically for use in confined environments such as hockey stadiums.
The ‘open microphone’ communication concept allows the Umpires to talk whenever they want, without waiting for their turn to speak and without the need for a push-to-talk button. The devices in the system are ‘paired’ which prevents anyone else from listening in or interrupting the conversation, unless they are using one of the set of maximum 6 radios on the same encrypted system.
The digital transmission strengthens the quality of communications and a specially developed noise filter eradicates all external noise, such as that from the crowd and even the sound of the Umpires’ own whistles.
To ensure that only the two Match Umpires will have an open communication channel, there is a push-to-talk accessory used for the Reserve Umpire and Video Umpire. There is also the possibility for a listening only mode on the devices for coaching purposes.
The Umpires using these new communication devices will be wearing either a customised headset, with a personal earpiece, or a standard headset, with an external microphone.
Peter von Reth, team leader of the Olympic Umpires’ team commented ‘This new equipment is currently being used at the Men’s Champions Trophy in Rotterdam and has been well received by the Umpires. It creates more opportunities for improving the teamwork on the pitch, enabling them to consult and advise each other instantly without having to use a push-to-talk facility. Match Umpires will now also be aware of their colleagues’ discussions with and explanations to players during games, which will automatically help to achieve a higher level of consistency in decision making.
From an Umpire coaching point of view the open microphone system makes it possible to support the Umpires with advice on how to address the players and how their communications with players and colleagues could be improved. Video footage reviews take place after each match at our World level events, and advice on use of the radios will fit in nicely with this’.
This new radio system is a further step to facilitate the Umpires with the best available technology in order to help improve the quality of umpiring. The radios will be used at all matches during the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing.