Video Review Needs to Happen Now

Please share this, tweet this, etc. FIRST students put too much effort into their robots to be cheated out of their achievements like this anymore.

As much as FIRST has done for me over the years, one of my biggest problems with the organization is the rule that forces Referees to ignore video evidence exposing bad calls made on the field. Just today at the New York City Regional, teams 395, 2869, and 1546 were cheated out of their win in the second quarterfinals match by a failure to count a defense cross that would have earned 5 points for cross as well as a 20 point bonus for a successful breach of defenses. This forced a third match which this alliance, flustered and confused by the flawed results, lost, causing a deserving group of students to miss a chance to play in the semifinal matches. Footage was provided from 2 different angles but not considered as per rules, and the match remained in the wrong team’s hands. Even a replay of the match couldn’t be considered. We all know from experience how hard all these students worked for this moment, and to lose in an unfairly judged match is an insult to their efforts and could drive them away from their interests in science and technology, the exact opposite of what FIRST stands for. The teams’ hopes were destroyed because the rules don’t allow Referees to use all available information to admit their mistakes. This is not what FIRST is about and I am ashamed of how this situation wasn’t handled. Its probably too late to correct this individual incident, but we can stop this from happening again. FIRST, please change this policy against video reviews, and referees, please at least consider replays of the whole match. Some already do this, but it needs be standardized to stop this from happening again. I’m open to discussion here, because this is something that needs to be talked about, but please spread the word.

I’ve heard counterarguments that this would prolong regional events and video could be unreliable. These are no excuses to discredit the effort of these students, as I witnessed firsthand Referees spending more time refusing to watch video than it would have taken to watch the clips 3 times over. In addition, professional sports have already solved the video reliability issue by necessitating that the calls be overturned beyond any reasonable doubt by the evidence, and it’s worked well. This can happen, and I hope as a community we can come together to make sure matches are fair and teams earn the credit they deserve.

Note regarding edits: the original edit of this post contained content unfairly judging the way the Referees handled this situation that I sincerely regret ever writing, and I sincerely apologize for any damage I may have caused. For every one mistake made, volunteer referees have made thousands upon thousands of fair calls and correct decisions, without which FIRST wouldn’t be able to exist. Thank you to all involved in this tough rule writing and enforcing process for taking the time to help students despite harsh negative feedback and disrespect. The few and far between problems have to this point been handled as well as they could have been, but I hope to be able to help further improve the process for teams in the future to have the best experiences they can.

1 Like

Regardless of your feeling towards the rules, the referees acted fully within the rules with regards to video rules and replays, so don’t express your anger towards them.

Referee mistakes suck (hello 2014), and they happen, and I’m not going to tell you to get over it, but don’t hate the player, hate the game.

My apologies, I was rather angry when I wrote that and attacked the wrong thing. Edited to reflect the real problem in the rule.

Refs, thanks for volunteering, regardless of calls events don’t run without you guys at all.

I agree with Gregor on this one, but also, I’d shoot an email to regarding your concern. I think it’s a good idea for refs to accept video evidence (many a time have bad referee calls been detrimental to my own team’s performance).

I strongly disagree. Video review opens a can of worms that should be left closed. Beyond simple time delays, it poses concerns regarding what source of video reviews should be allowed, how many videos should be allowed, what level of evidence is needed, what is the timing/procedure for calling video reviews*, how many video reviews are allowed, etc.

*Anyone who’s been an alliance captain before already knows the confusion and heartburn of figuring out timeout and back-up coupon timings.

Video review in sports has been anything but a panacea, and they have countless more camera angles and video analysis tools than will be at the disposal of referees in FRC.

Dear Patrick

(and Dear Others that think a team got robbed of a victory)

Thanks for posting and a bigger thanks for you volunteering to help out at the next two events. Your help will be deeply appreciated.

Video replay / electronic scoring isn’t what you think it is. NASCAR races at ~30 tracks and has spent millions on putting sensors into the tracks to mark the position of the cars. MLB / NFL with their limited number of stadiums has spent millions of dollars along with more millions by FOX/NBC/CBS/ABC/ESPN on video technology to be able to manage video replays.

I’m super pleased that you’ve decided to dedicate you next two years to doing this work for FIRST and I’m super excited to listen to your announcement on the partner dollars you’ve signed up to contribute, your new TV funded dollars and how that charging people to come watch the event to also help fund this will work out. Or that you hit Powerball to pay for all of this and are donating the proceeds.

I’m hoping that a referee reaches out to you and has you come stand next to them on the field. One would think, from sitting in the stands, that being a referee is a piece of cake. In reality down on the field it’s overly bright, it’s noisy, it’s a huge amount to watch.

Other than being the Volunteer Coordinator, there is no worse job in FIRST than being a referee. There isn’t any upside since you are not getting paid, the pizza was pretty bad (cheese only really?) , and frankly you have a closet full of robot shirts. And I’m calling BS on that “Vertical Stripes are slimming”

Other than you are out there making a difference, making an effort to improve the world. Giving up your only non-replaceable thing in your life, time, to help other people.

To find out that they are ungrateful, condescending, and mocking your efforts to help them.

But, since you’ve signed up to be one of them at the next two events, I look forward to your post in 4 weeks to see how your world view has changed. Welcome to the world of being a volunteer!

Warmest personal regards,

(Why yes, that was filled full of snark and sarcasm. Make sure you send me your VIMS number on how many events you are helping at when you send your complaint mail).

Edited to add: So I posted right after the post came up. I type slow and try to proofread, so I’m now number 6 behind an edited post. ]]

Here’s where I start to get rustled.

A simple overhead view of the field can be used to solve all disputes in FRC.
There is very little room to argue with this. FIRST could implement the system themselves as its not that complicated of a system to put in place.

As to who’s video? Obviously the only video that would be reviewed would be from FIRST’s own camera system. There would be no 3rd party camera footage viewing allowed, similarly to how things are now.

This isn’t sports. In FRC the game pieces are simple, the rules are simple, and the problem is no where as complicated as you think it is.

My perspective: I’ve been a Head Ref for FTC events for several years now.

I call BS.

A simple overhead camera? I’m assuming you mean similar to the fisheye cameras used by FiM/MAR/Indiana. Because if you mean a true overhead camera, that’s simply not a realistic option at the vast majority of FRC venues (and certainly not an option without additional rigging costs on the venue side). And if you mean some other static camera (or even a true overhead), there are still plenty of disputes that will not be able to solve. Was a robot’s wheel touching the outerworks at the end of autonomous, or just their bumper overhanging? Did their mechanism extend more than 15" beyond the frame perimeter? Did their robot fully stop contacting the drawbridge door momentarily? What was the game clock at that second during the overhead view? Heck, I’m watching the Tippecanoe stream right now, and there are still quite literal blind spots behind easy drawbridge/portcullis (as well as smaller ones behind the towers). No single camera is going to solve all FRC disputes.

Nor did you address any of the other questions I raised.

e; To demonstrate my point, I just captured this from the NYC webstream. While the lack of quality is due to stream compression, the general point still stands. This is what typically constitutes an overhead view in FRC. Did the robot in the orange circle cross the defense? Commit a penalty?

Also, one thing with FRC that is different than traditional sports is that the game changes every year. Let that sink in for a moment. In traditional sports, let’s say, soccer for example, the game never changes. Albeit maybe a few minor rules (I know the offside rule changes frequently) but nowhere near the frequency that new FRC games get introduced. This essentially means that at this time in the season (week 2), any FRC referee can only have 2-3 months of experience and by champs they could have 4-5 months (maybe) of referee experience, whereas traditional sports referees have 20 to 30 years playing the game with only minor variations.

May I add that FRC games are WAY more complicated than traditional sports games. I could argue this but I do not have the energy nor the full keyboard to use.

I don’t know if you read the edits before noticing themon your edit, but by no means am I trying to discredit referees themselves. I agree that you have it tough, students and mentors alike can be ungrateful at times. However, I have never seen a more respectful approach than the one my students on 395 took to the issue. They did not get nearly as angry as I did, they did not lose their heads, and they did not root against the alliance that advanced to semis. Instead they decided to start making efforts to stop this from happening in future years despite being largely composed of seniors. All FIRST volunteers deserve respect, especially Referees and Judges, but a change to the video policy would be a huge step in the right direction. No teams could feel like they have any right to feel unfairly judged because calls would be right every time, or at least far more often. The students deserve fair play, and the refs deserve respect for their efforts and a way to make sure they can deliver what students ask of them. A video review policy will help both groups get what they deserve. If this still offends you, I don’t know what to tell you.

Just a note - this is an perennial tough subject and the conversation is good, but make sure to write it out, breathe, think, and edit appropriately.

If you’re interested, theres a few threads in the archives about this subject too.

The fact that I have seen more than a handful of crossings not given credit several in auto is garbage. In the heat of a match I could see things being missed, but how does one miss a crossing in auto?

A related thread to video reviews this year:

I might agree to the use of video replay, on one condition only.

But that one condition will, in all probability, ruin the entire concept for most of the proponents of using replay.


You MUST use the video to prove that you LOST a match that you won, as well as the other way around. That is, if video you take shows that the other alliance should have won the match, and they did not, you need to provide that video to the referees and tell them that you should not have won the match.

Anybody got any objections? How about when it’s F3 and you just won the regional by a dubious call that should have gone against you?

It’s not video review, but big props to 4342 did something very similar in 2014 at Chestnut Hill. Their alliance was improperly given credit for an autonomous shot they missed in QF1-3, and members of 4342’s drive team came to the question box with members of the opposing alliance. As a result, the head ref allowed for a replay of QF1-3, in which 4342’s alliance ultimately ended up being eliminated. 4342 being willing to risk their trip to the SFs (thus effectively ending their season) on behalf of getting the call on the field correct was a terrific example of graciousness. I still applaud them for it.

Thank you for posting this. I hadn’t thought about this before and I fully agree. I think all steps possible should be taken to ensure fair play, and especially in the culture FIRST is trying to promote and is so important, if a team knows they lost and can prove it they should because it’s the right thing to do, like using your timeout to give opponents more time to make repairs, or being honest in describing your abilities to teams looking to make picks.

That being said, I don’t know how a rule mandating this would be enforced, or if it would need to be. To this point, I have seen so many examples of Gracious Professionalism in the way students handle competing. I’ve witnessed teams lend parts, timeouts, expertise, and even drivers to short-staffed teams, often contributing to losses. There’s no way to determine whether or not a team has the necessary video, nor is there a way to confiscate a device or files so the refs could view them, but because of what FIRST is, I can’t see a need for such a rule.

The only way for FIRST to accept video evidence is if they provide the video evidence on FIRST owned and operated equipment. I agree that teams can sometimes be cheated out of that, my team was one of them in Semi Final 3 at Virginia 2014 with a 50 pointer that really should’ve been a 20 pointer.

But with that being said, I do think they should accept video if they are the ones providing it so that it can be unbiased and incorporate all angles and such. From someone who’s been there, I feel you.

While games will never be free of tough calls, quite honestly a lot of the problems that call for video review shouldn’t be problems in the first place. We need a game that is designed to minimize referee calls and not patched up with dozens of rules trying to legislate the ideal / intended way to play the game.

Specifically, games with scoring determined by humans watching for actions should have humans devoted solely to watching those actions. We didn’t learn this lesson in 2014?

You’d like me to go through every part of your argument? I have loads of time today.

Time delays are a valid concern. I’ll use the Orlando Regional as a benchmark for a lot of things I’ll talk about here since that was my most recent experience. We were 1.5 hours behind schedule pretty much all the time. Taking up the time of normal refs with this new video system I’m proposing would not work. Yet, I see the solution as simple and I’ll provide my solution.

In qualifications if there is a disputed match where a team believes there was something not scored correctly we could have an additional referee who’s entire job it was is to review video to sort these problems out. You don’t even have to take the time of the normal match refs to do this sort of after-match verification. The video ref could take a look at the camera view footage to determine if the appropriate call was made.

The review time for videos would be kept short if a designated video review ref could not find indisputable evidence that the call was botched then there would be no changes.

In eliminations where the match scores are in my opinion even more critical to maintaining the quality of the event you can follow a similar procedure. Give at max 5 minutes to determine the call.

As I said previously. The only video that would be reviewed would be that from an official FIRST mandated system.

A overhead camera like this one.
A solution would have to be found. FIRST provides the field, the ref system, etc. This would have to become part of it.

It would very obvious that the camera would have to provide a high enough resolution video of the entire field to be validly able to determine calls.

Some of those calls that you just mentioned can’t even be called consistently by the refs with their own eyes during the course of a match let alone an event. (i.e 15" perimeter rule, crossings, etc.) If you watched that video you’d even see that crossings were not being counted correctly even over the simple defenses.

Blind spots are valid and just like in football where sometimes a call can’t be made definitively even with camera angles a call would just have to be left to stand. HOWEVER, if it can be proven with a simple system like the overhead camera like I am proposing than that alone is a drastic improvement.

I’d actually argue that any video provided should be considered, especially if FIRST’s camera(s) can’t get a good angle on a situation but outside video can. When clear video can’t be provided or the situation for any reason remains impossible to determine one way or another beyond any reasonable doubt, the Referee ruling should stand. Video of an event can’t really add bias without showing an incomplete picture thereby making it ambiguous. Therefore I see no reason not to at least allow Referees to consider outside clips.