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IJF considers system using just 1 referee

If the International Judo Federation gets its way, judging flags will become a thing of the past in the sport--and hopefully controversy as well.

The IJF is considering a plan to test the use of a single-referee system starting in January next year, it was revealed Wednesday.

Under the current system, there is a main referee on the mat with the competitors and two judges who sit in opposite corners. Two of the three arbiters have to agree for a scoring point to be valid.

The new system would have a lone referee, with a competition jury that can use video replay to review close calls.

Japan Judo Federation chairman Haruki Uemura, who recently returned from an IJF directors' meeting in Brazil, said the new system will be tested at international meets early in the new year. If no problems arise, it is expected to be formally adopted at a general congress in August.

A call to reform the system arose after an incident at last summer's London Olympics. In the men's 66-kilogram quarterfinal, South Korea's Cho Jun Ho was originally declared the winner by unanimous judges' decision over Japan's Masashi Ebinuma after their match ended scoreless.

But the jury, led by the referees commission director, intervened and admonished the judges, making them reconsider their decision. In a farcical scene, the judges, who had all raised flags indicating Cho, then all raised flags in Ebinuma's color.

The incident revealed the diminishing powers of the judges in favor of an overseeing jury.

The Japan federation is also considering testing the new system at the All-Japan weight class championships in May.

Meanwhile, the IJF is also considering a measure to limit the number of competitors each country can enter at the world championships.

From 2010, each country was allowed two entries per weight class. But the IJF is mulling a rule that would limit each country to nine competitors overall for each gender in the seven weight classes.

(Nov. 1, 2012)

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