Matt Butler: Only a close-up of a flanker's back? Ref-cam is TV history

View From The Sofa: Championship Rugby Union, Sky Sports 3

History was made yesterday in Newcastle. But it was less a "where were you when..." moment than a "what was the point of that" episode. For yesterday, on the day Dean Richards made his televisual return as a coach, was the inaugural use of ref-cam on a rugby union field.

On the face of it, the idea of strapping a camera to a rugby union referee in the part of the season that, because of weather conditions, does everything to perpetuate the idea that the sport is unintelligible to vast swathes of the population, seemed a brilliant one. At last we would see what goes on when 16 blokes writhe around in the hope that an egg-shaped ball would pop out to a member of their shivering back line.

As the moment of kick-off between Newcastle Falcons and London Scottish loomed, the speculation mounted. What would we see? Would we gain an insight into a hitherto unknown, Narnia-style world that exists only in the breakdown area? Would we at last find out the complex and convoluted chain of events that must be set in motion for a referee to blow for offside? Or would we merely be treated to lingering shots of flankers', erm, flanks?

Then there was the deep irony of the choice of fixture, given that it was Richards' first appearance since the infamous Bloodgate scandal which engulfed Harlequins in 2009. Unbroadcast television footage was used to implicate Tom Williams in the blood capsule fakery, which led to the player's and Richards' banning. So with this added angle, who knows what sort of skulduggery may be unearthed in the future with a ref's-eye view of proceedings?

Five minutes into the presentation the official, Matt Carley, was pictured being strapped into the apparatus, which looked worryingly like a flak jacket. But after that brief peep into his dressing room, the chat went back to the presenter James Gemmell and his pundit Pat Sanderson. And the weather (windy) and ground conditions (muddy) were deemed more important than the piece of kit on Carley's chest.

The first live shot we were treated to was when Carley jogged out from the tunnel on to the field before kick-off. His view, for the curious among you, was of the Falcon open-side flanker Richard Mayhew's back. As the images were beamed to the nation – a little pixelated owing to the weather playing havoc with Sky's feed – the commentators trumpeted how rugby union is at the forefront when it comes to technology in sport. Unlike those football Luddites, the viewers collectively inferred. But where were the shots during the match? A good 20 minutes into the game we were yet to see a single picture from ref-cam. Anything – a scrappy ruck, a mediocre line-out – would have done.

But 21 minutes and 13 seconds into the match, we got it. It wasn't of earth-shattering significance, but it was a refreshing change of angle. In a break in play, while a line-out was being organised, we got a seasick-inducing shot of a couple of blokes ambling past Carley. Later in the match there were some tantalising scrum shots, but we saw nothing beyond the "crouch" command, as the forwards ducked out of shot. Carley would have had to crouch down if we were to gain any insight into the pack's machinations. But as they say – and as Sky must be hoping – history is sometimes made in the most mundane of moments.

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
Arts and Entertainment

Grace Dent on TV

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us