Learning about the technologies of beach handball
The EHF Beach Handball Champions Cup 2023 saw lots of twists and turns, passion and drama – doubtless officiating was a challenging task at times. Thankfully, this year’s Champions Cup edition saw a fresh piece of technology introduced, as the electronic team timeout buzzer was used for the first time alongside the goal-line technology and the video replay, which had already featured at the tournament before.
Goal-line technology creates a virtual line for referees to check if there was a goal or not, while video replay allows them to go back and check if there was an offence that occurred in game play which should or should not lead to a red card.
The electronic team timeout buzzer next to the coaches allows them to call their timeouts without delay, saving crucial seconds in a beach handball game. Jiří Opava, EHF’s beach handball commissioner and responsible for officiating technology of beach handball, is the mastermind behind the new technology’s implementation – and he explains the uses, benefits, issues, and future of the technology.
Video replay and goal-line technology
When discussing video replay and goal-line technology, Opava places them next to each other as they are both based on using cameras, meaning that they have similar means of application and any drawbacks are similar.
“Both have been in use for the last three to four years, where they have functioned well and generally no problems are likely,” Opava points out.
“There can be some complications with the technology – if there is a wrong positioning with the camera or maybe it doesn’t record – but this is always improving, and I don’t remember this having happened in Porto Santo at all.”
Goal-line technology does what it says on the tin: it creates a way that referees can be sure whether there was a goal or not. The technology uses three cameras fixed to the underside of the crossbar.
“If a referee is not sure whether there was a goal or not, whether the ball was clearly behind the line, they make the signal, time is paused, and they run off-court to check the video,” Opava explains.
“The video shows a virtual line, as in beach handball there is no physical line between the posts. The referees get a clear view from the cameras whether there is a goal or not.”
Throughout the EHF Beach Handball Champions Cup 2023 this technology has been used. With matches often going to shootouts and one goal being the difference between a win or a loss, the role of this goal-line technology in ensuring fairness cannot be understated.
Opava explains that “video replay is also a technology based on cameras, mainly it’s connected to the livestream, but additional cameras with different angles can be used when needed for a clear image.”
Video replay technology is only to be used by the referees and is used approximately two or three times a match, largely depending on the nature of the match.
When outlining the application of these two camera-based technologies it is important to know that “there are strict rules on usage. Goal-line technology is only used by the referees if they are checking whether there is a goal or not, or at the end of a set whether a goal was inside the time or not – the technology is also connected to the scoreboard and timing.”
Opava elaborates that, similarly, “the regulation for video replay is only used for a few situations: where the referee is attempting to determine whether there should be a direct disqualification for a player, in other words a red card. Or if there is a shootout, they can use video replay to see whether the attacking player is crossing the goal area line and whether allow or disallow the goal. Referees again must show a signal in the middle of the court, pause the time, inform the delegate why they are using the technology – then they check the situation as a slow-motion video replay.”
According to Opava, “this technology brings a better solution of some difficult situations and a clear solution of that. if you use video or goal-line technology, It is totally clear 99 per cent of the time if the decision was correct or not, and there are no doubts about it. Everyone knows that it was checked on the video – this is a similar advantage as in indoor handball.”
The electronic team timeout buzzer
The electronic team timeout buzzer was previously used at the YAC 16 EHF Beach Handball EURO 2022 in Türkiye and in European matches before coming to Porto Santo this summer. The buzzer is positioned between the coaches in the middle of the substitution area.
Opava explains that “if the coaches decide to use a team timeout which they have one per set, they push the buzzer and this should stop the time, alongside a loud klaxon noise coming out to notify the players, officials, etc.”
While the technology has remained “somewhat in the pilot phase” so far, the main issue occurring is that it does not connect to the scoreboard.
“It was the case in the Champions Cup, where there wasn’t a loud enough sound, which meant we sometimes proceeded to use the old system of team timeout cards,” Opava says.
These are small issues that do not diminish the fact that the buzzer is part of the future of the game.
“Team timeouts are tactically crucial at the end of the set. There could be two to three goals in the last 30 seconds of the game, so every second is important,” Opava explains.
“If the team timeout to stop the time is on the shoulders of the delegates – sometimes they whistle a few seconds too late just because they didn’t see the card showing from the coaches right away, with them having to watch so many different things to the same time.”
All three technologies in use continue to make the officiating and fairness of beach handball better and better. Watch the EHF Beach Handball Champions Cup 2023 men’s final below to see the technologies in action.
photos © 2023 Uros Hocevar, Sasa Pahic Szabo / kolektiff