AI on the playing field: Bill Squadron offers insights into using technology to officiate

Squadron, an assistant professor of sport management, penned column on the topic for Sportico, which covers the worldwide sports industry.

Could artificial intelligence help professional sports solve what some consider its biggest problem — blown calls by officials? Bill Squadron thinks so.

Bill Squadron, assistant professor of sport management

An assistant professor of sport management, Squadron recently penned a column for Sportico, a media outlet that covers the global sports industry, that makes an argument for the use of technology in officiating major professional sports contests.

Titled “All-Seeing AI: One day technology can bring consistency to officiating,” Squadron’s column draws from his own experience with sports technology. More than 20 years ago, Squadron founded Sportvision, a company that introduced the K Zone with ESPN that tracked every baseball pitch.

“The virtue of these applications is consistency,” Squadron writes. “Referees, umpires, linespeople and other officials are dedicated and highly skilled at their craft, under the circumstances. Those circumstances are that as players become more athletic, and the action becomes more physical and faster, no human being can make accurate, split-second judgments without regularly committing errors.”

A lack of consistency can be among the most frustrating aspects of sports for players, coaches and fans alike, Squadron says.

“Technology would allow calls to be made consistently, which would ensure fairness to each sided,” Squadron writes. “In addition, it would eliminate the incessant haranguing of officials, allowing athletes to focus on the game and get rid of an unpleasant part of the fan experience. It would also put an end to the interminable video reviews.”

The technology still needs to develop further, Squadron says, and there should continue to be a human element to officiating. “As AI continues to expand, we should not be afraid to utilize it to strengthen the game, as the U.S. Open has done,” Squadron writes. “The time has come to allow it to solve sport’s officiating challenge.”

Squadron earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley and was previously a partner at Morrison & Foerster specializing in cable, broadcast and wireless regulation. He served as the New York City Commissioner of Telecommunications under Mayor David Dinkins, and as President of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, representing all municipalities in the discussions over the Cable Act of 1992.

Squadron was previously senior vice president for strategic planning at News Corp. and was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for NYC in the Media category in 2001. He served as head of new media for IMG North America, from 2003 to 2006. He was president of Bloomberg Sports, the leader in sports data and analytics services, which was sold to Vista Equity Partners in 2015.